New Environmental Concerns re Ice Centre on Leyton Marsh

FURTHER REASONS FOR NOT SITING ICE CENTRE ON LEYTON MARSH

By Celia Coram

  1. Scale & Suitability 

Why propose to put an industrial building on a site of Metropolitan Open Land?

Having carried out a Google search I could find no other ‘ice centre’ that is built on a similar open space.

Furthermore, the International Olympic Committee’s own guidelines for ice centres covering both ice skating and ice hockey states:  “First consider the possibility of making use of derelict areas, brownfield sites, industrial wasteland, disused sites etc.”

As Metropolitan Open Land (MOL), Leyton Marsh should not be chosen.  The IOC guidance also recommends sites that promote sustainable transport such as walking and cycling, over cars and whilst the walking and cycling routes have improved along the Lea Bridge Road, it is still dominated by cars and not near main train or underground routes that don’t require people from a distance making transfers.  The Olympic site is far better connected to Essex and Hertfordshire where many non-local users of the current Ice Centre are said to hail from.

Looking at the updated list of photos on the Waltham Forest Planning Application portal that include impressions of the scale of the building, I am particularly concerned by the loss of view from the river towards Friends Bridge, which marks a big step change in the nature of the area.  See 6DL Photographs & Photomontages 23 April.

https://planning.walthamforest.gov.uk/application-search#VIEW?RefType=APPPlanCase&KeyText=194162

For reference and comparison, here’s an example “Olympic-sized twin pad” ice rink that is located on an industrial park in Sheffield:

 

The LVRPA claim that the proposed Leisure Centre will “open up” the area, when in fact it will do the opposite.   During the lockdown, we have all seen a dramatic upsurge in usage of our green spaces for walking, cycling and outside relaxation, whilst leisure centres have remained uselessly shut.  Green spaces have proved to be even more valuable for physical and mental health.  We do not yet know how long this pandemic will persist or whether it will be replaced by a similar outbreak, in which case, such leisure buildings will need to be shut or have much reduced usage. (This will also have a significant impact on the income generation projections of the proposed building).

The London Borough of Waltham Forest could be entranced by having an ‘Olympic standard’ facility in the borough.  This however, might be wish fulfilment rather than a planning issue.  It comes at a time, with a major pandemic which has been largely caused by environmental breaches and when we are all trying to reassess what we do to best support the environment that sustains us and I would ask that officers and members of the Planning Committee seriously consider these additional points when it comes to making recommendations and decisions about whether this industrial building should be placed on our vital MOL land.

Another concern is the use of gabions.  These have been used extensively on the Olympic site and have not resulted in very much habitable growth.  The current ice centre, also had installed some of these blocks outside of the building during the 2012, “Olympic” spruce- up and are similarly bare apart from ivy and brambles growing over the top of the blocks, not anything seeded in them.  These add to the industrial look of any building and do not detract from it.  As shown in  photos of examples of bare gabions from the Hackney Sports Centre and areas around Homerton Road and Ruckholt Road near the Olympic site.  These have been installed at least since 2012, and show no signs of vegetation or habitation apart from plants growing in the ground in front of them.  The proposed use on the ice centre building to make it environmentally habitable and blend in with the surroundings is therefore extremely doubtful.

 

  1. Water Pollution

Whilst the LVRPA has gone to some lengths to present the Ice Centre as being as “state of the art” as possible in its design, including planning to put reed filter beds to process the ice water from the proposed rink into the Oxbow, this is, in my view is still questionable.  Glycol (an anti-freeze), is used in ice rinks and as the rinks are also marked up for hockey using toxic paint, one wonders whether using reed beds is sufficient, particularly if there is a breakdown in equipment at any time.  I can cite an example in Vancouver, Canada, where the University’s ice rink processing went wrong and ended up killing a lot of fish. See: https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/ubc/loses-appeal-of-1-155million-fine-conviction-for-dumping-ammonia-into-fish-bearing-stream/wcm/c6c17f7e-35d5-4e-bd32-a82ad1972e75/

 

Even though ammonia and carbon dioxide are the main refrigerants of choice for the majority of today’s ice rinks, they have their attendant issues as well. For example, whereas ammonia may be a primary refrigerant, it is often utilized concurrently with brine to boost its cooling properties. In consequence the refrigerant has a high saline content, and so if leaked it can cause serious environmental damage. Furthermore, although ‘some rinks’ add salt to the water to keep them from freezing, most modern rinks now add ethylene glycol, a type of anti-freeze which is highly toxic. Again, its leakage would be harmful to the environment, poisoning living organisms, their habitats and ecosystems. See https://inhabitat.com/ice-rink-alternatives-and-their-environmental-impact/

 

  1. Air pollution

Although promoting the health and exercise benefits of ice skating, there are counter health arguments based on research regarding the health risks of the circulating air in ice and leisure centres resulting in serious respiratory diseases that have affected, for example, hockey players:

“In enclosed ice areas a primary source of indoor air concerns, is the release of combustion pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate Matter (PM) into the indoor air from the exhausts of ice resurfacers.  Combustion pollutants are produced whenever any fuel such as gasoline, propane or diesel is burned”.

How does carbon monoxide exposure affect your health?  “Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, mild headaches and may have longer term effects on your Health.” (The United States Protection  Agency).

Numerous studies have established a link between long-term exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide and ultra-fine particulate matter generated at indoor rinks by gas, diesel and propane ice resurfacing machines and a high prevalence of respiratory problems, such as asthma, exercise induced  bronchiospasm (EIB), peripheral airway inflammation and/or airway wall fibrosis among figure skaters, short-track speed skaters and ice hockey players.  A 2004 study found levels of ultra-fine and fine particulate matter from hourly ice-resurfacing by so called ‘Zambonis’ and ice edgers at levels 20 times outside air levels”.

https://www.momstream.com/ice-hockey-poor-air-quality-pollution-health-concern

Ice Centres however well designed, are not carbon neutral and are not good examples of trying to meet Climate Change initiatives.  The London Borough of Waltham Forest’s own Climate Change guidelines should make it question having such a building, particularly sited on green space.

 

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Objection of the Week #8

This is the final objection in our series of featured objections to the planning application for a new double-pad ice centre on Leyton Marsh. It is by Paul.

There is still time to object! You can use any of the points members of Save Lea Marshes have made in our individual objections – original submissions count for more so please write in your own words, if you have time. Simply email your objection to: dmconsultations@walthamforest.gov.uk 

The current ice centre on Leyton Marsh, off Lea Bridge Road.

Application No. 194162
Lee Valley Ice Centre, Lea Bridge Road E10 7QL

I am objecting to this application.
1. The application acknowledges that the proposed expanded ice centre is inappropriate
development on Metropolitan Open Land. The applicants have failed to demonstrate that
Very Special Circumstances exist sufficient to overcome the harm to MOL and the
application should be refused.

2. The application makes reference to the Harrow School sports hall appeal decision in
support of its arguments. The special circumstances leading to the allowing of the Harrow
School appeal cannot be applied to the application being determined here.
Impact on MOL

3. The location is in a sensitive extended stretch of the Lea Valley MOL extending along the north side of Lea Bridge Road between the Essex Wharf residential development to the
west and the industrial area beyond the Flood Relief Channel 400m west. Though the
existing ice centre is present as the sole inappropriate structure immediately visible from
most viewpoints it is set well back from the road with a large open area in front.

4. The Waltham Forest Focussed Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land Assessment
(Nov 2019) confirms:
“The site does not adjoin the urban edge. Therefore, the redevelopment of the ice centre
is likely to be incongruous within the wider open setting of the MOL and would have a
significant impact on adjacent MOL, particularly to the north and south where MOL has
the potential to become increasingly contained by the redevelopment of the site.”

5. Except for the apartment blocks of Essex Wharf, for whose planning consent the
applicants sought Judicial Review on grounds of their impact on the open space of the
Park, there are no other buildings the entire stretch of 1170m from the western boundary
of North Millfields Park in Hackney to the Flood Relief Channel.

6. The proposed structure’s footprint is 7029 sqm, twice that of the existing building at 3596sqm. The height is 11m, slightly less than the existing building. However due to the
arched profile of the existing building the overall volume will increase by a factor of 2.4 .

7. The substantially increased bulk of the building will by itself reduce openness from most
viewpoints, but this is exacerbated by the positioning. Extending closer to the road and
cycle and footpaths to the south and north will make its bulk visually more apparent. From
any viewpoint on Lea Bridge Road the building will dominate the space to a much greater
degree than the existing building, which sits 70m back from the road. In particular when
coming over Lea Bridge and entering the borough from the west the new building will be
prominent and highly visible, severely compromising the currently open aspect south of
the ice centre. This is clearly apparent in the Massing Test outlines, P65 of Design and
Access Statement.

Policy
8. The application claims incorrectly in the Planning Statement Executive Summary that an expanded ice centre is supported in current local planning policy:
1.66 The proposals are also supported by the Park Authority’s planning documents,
including the Regional Park’s ‘Park Development Framework’ and The Lea Bridge and Leyton Vision which was adopted by the Council in June 2017. These documents are relevant and significant material considerations in favour of the proposals in the ‘planning balance’.

9. The contents of the Park Development Framework is not itself a material planning
consideration in the determination of the Authority’s own applications. The LVR Park Act
1966 requires only that:
14(2)(a) The local planning authorities shall from time to time include in their development plans or in any proposals for any alterations or additions to their development plans such part of the plan referred to in subsection (1) of this section or of any amendment to that plan as relates to their area.

10. The current WF Local Plan does not include an expanded ice centre in the proposed
location, and it is not included in the draft 2020 Plan.

11. The Lea Bridge and Leyton Vision is not a planning document, and was not adopted into policy. The final consultation report of June 2017 makes clear:
“ The Vision document is not a planning document and has little weight in planning terms.
It is a high level vision of how the area could develop and change over the next 10 years.
The Council has started work on reviewing the Local Plan and will be consulting on the
Direction of Travel later in 2017. The Lea Bridge and Leyton Vision area will be taken
forward as part of that review scheduled for adoption by 2020. Any planning applications
which come forward earlier would have to be considered on their own merits against
current adopted policies and the National Planning Policy Framework.”

12. The new WF Local Plan has not yet been adopted, furthermore the draft includes no
specific reference or policy support for an expanded ice centre development at the
proposed location.

13. The applicant claims (PS 5.29) that a 2011 Court Order requires its Park Plan to be
treated as if it were part of the Local Plan and given weight in determination of this
application. However this Order was obtained in the context of the applicant’s opposition
to a 3rd party planning application that would affect the Park. It is clear from S14 of the
Park Act that the intention of this ‘very special arrangement’ (PS 5.30) is to protect the
Park from negative impacts of development within or nearby, not to facilitate approval of
its own planning applications regardless of conflict with MOL/Greenbelt policy.

The Very Special Circumstances Considerations
The Role of the Park Authority
14. The application claims that the status and role of the applicant is a consideration
contributing to Very Special Circumstances. It is asserted that it has a planning
advantage simply by being the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority, implying that this
application should be treated more favourably than an identical development in the same
location submitted by a different applicant.

15. The arguments on P33 of the Planning Statement are misleading and wrong in law.

16. It is not correct that there is any planning precedent for the LVRPA receiving consent for inappropriate development on MOL, or that any planning decision has been influenced by this in determining VSCs.
The Planning Statement says:
“9.2 The statutory remit of the Park Authority includes providing directly or indirectly,
built facilities for leisure, recreation and sport. This has been previously
recognised in the making of planning decisions, for example through the granting of
planning permission for the current ice centre (LPA ref. 82/458) within MOL”

17. There is no evidence that the statutory remit of the Authority has explicitly influenced any planning decision in this way, indeed it has never previously sought permission for an
inappropriate building on currently designated MOL . The permission for the existing ice
centre was granted in 1982. However MOL did not receive the protection offered to Green
Belt in planning policy until 1989, and Waltham Forest had not yet designated its areas of
MOL at the time of the planning application.

18. It continues:
“9.3 Building a replacement ice centre is fully consistent with the statutory remit of the
Park Authority, its location within MOL does not change this. Indeed, since 95% of the
Regional Park is designated as Green Belt and MOL, with the remaining 5% already
developed or allocated for development, there is an implicit acknowledgement that some
of the activities covered by the Park Act, which would otherwise be deemed
‘inappropriate’ in the Green Belt or MOL, are appropriate if being undertaken by the Park
Authority.”

19. Firstly, building a replacement ice centre would be acceptable on MOL as the NPPF
permits replacement of existing buildings which would otherwise be inappropriate
provided they are no larger and with the same function. The application is not for a
replacement, it is for a new building more than twice the size with additional functions
(gymnasium). Most of the benefits ascribed to the proposed development would also
apply to a more modest replacement ice center compliant with MOL policy.

20. Secondly, the Lea Valley Regional Park Act 1966 explicitly prevents the Authority from
exercising its remit in a way that contravenes planning policy. There is nothing to indicate
that the Authority is entitled to special consideration. Sections 12 and 13 of the Act
describe the duties and powers of the Authority. 13(9) reads:
“(9) Nothing in this or the last preceding section shall be con strued as excluding or
limiting the application of any other enactment prohibiting, regulating or restricting the
doing of any particular thing or as authorising the doing of that thing by or under
agreements or arrangements made with the Authority except in accordance with the
provisions of such other enactment.”

21. Thirdly, the Authority has an extremely broad remit and for over 50 years has exercised this in a way which did not conflict with planning policy. When the Park Act was drafted it was not envisaged that the Authority would choose to develop facilities that directly conflict with prevailing policy.

The Need to Replace the Ice Centre
22. The need for replacement of the existing facility, even if this were the most economical
approach to maintaining it, should not be given any weight in evaluation of Very Special
Circumstances since this could be achieved with no increase in the footprint of the
building.

23. A replacement building could be compliant with MOL policy were it not for the additional ice pad, and fitness centre which does not currently exist and is a further inappropriate use.

24. The applicants have provided a considerable amount of information on evaluation of
alternative locations and the Park Authority’s powers. This includes significant omissions
and errors:

25. The application asserts that a new ice centre could only be constructed within the existing Park boundaries. Planning Statement 2.7 says “The list of activities and provisions that can be accommodated in the Regional Park relate to land within the Regional Park
boundary” . The alternative town centre locations evaluated in PS Appendix 1.9 states for
each site “Furthermore, it is outside of the Lea Valley Regional Park and could not be
developed by the Park Authority” .

26. In fact the Park Act provides for the development of facilities on land outside the Park
boundaries, so there should be no obstacle either acquiring land or entering into a
partnership to develop a new ice center in an alternative appropriate location as part of a
major town centre development:

27. 13(2) The Authority may enter into and carry into effect agree ments or arrangements
with any company, body or person for the provision and maintenance by such company,
body or person, whether within or outside the park, of any works, facilities, supplies or
services which may be desirable for or in connection with the carrying into effect of any of
the purposes of this Act and by any such agreement or arrangement may agree to defray
or to make contributions- towards expenses incurred by the company, body or person
thereunder.
and

28. 23. Any land outside the park acquired by the Authority by virtue of this Act for the
purposes of section 12 (General duty of Authority) or section 13 (Ancillary powers of
Authority) of this Act shall for the purposes of this Act be deemed to be part of the park.

29. The Qualitative Site Assessment of alternative sites owned by the applicant is inadequate and appears to have been deliberately weighted in favour of the existing ice centre location and against the more suitable location at Eton Manor (Appendix A of the
Feasibility Report Phase 3 included in the Planning Statement).

30. The applicant fails to disclose that it intends to develop a hotel with a gym and cafe on the Eton Manor site, has selected a developer and been involved in pre application
discussions with the LPA.

Delivering Community Benefits
31. Preservation of MOL, particularly when it is accessible public green space and in such a
significant location as the application site, has a great community benefit both as a
general principle and in terms of the local function of the land and its contribution to well
being.

32. Any benefits claimed for doubling the size of the existing building at the expense of MOL, they will accrue to a very small percentage of the population while the benefits of
openness are universally available and accessible and beneficial to the entire
community.

33. This should not be considered a special circumstance and given no weighting since
community benefits would exist anyway regardless of whether the ice centre was located
elsewhere or was redeveloped as a single pad, or if the site was returned to open green
space. The Park itself was created to provide community benefits and any facility
developed by the Authority would have benefits for some section of the community, as
does open parkland.

34. The applicant claims economic benefits (PS 11.61) with no supporting explanation or
evidence of methodology. The assertion that there will be “An increase in visitor
expenditure of £1.5m is expected in the local area each year” is questionable. If the
number of visits doubled from the claimed present 279,000, every visit would need to
mean a spend of £5.37 somewhere outside the venue; clearly wrong as the majority of
visitors come straight to the venue and leave the area immediately afterward.

Delivering Health Benefits
35. As with community benefits, the application is misleading in focussing on particular health benefits of the proposal, since equal or greater benefits could be derived from
development of alternative facilities on the application site which would be appropriate on
MOL.

Improving the quality of MOL
36. Where there is an actual loss of MOL as a result of inappropriate development, this
cannot be mitigated by ‘improvements to quality’ or wider landscaping works as described
in the Planning Statement.

37. Claimed biodiversity enhancements in particular should not be accorded any weight since an expectation of such enhancements is embedded in planning policy and applies to any development inter alia the London Plan – “development proposals should: wherever
possible, make a positive contribution to the protection, enhancement, creation and
management of biodiversity”

38. The landscaping and biodiversity works are clearly incidental to the building itself, could be undertaken without the replacement ice centre, and would presumably be provided as part of any alternative development on the site. It is not a ‘special circumstance’ but a generic mitigation unrelated to the substance of the development.

Harrow School Appeal Decision
39. The Secretary of State allowed an appeal against the directed refusal of permission for a new sports hall and science building at Harrow School, and in PS Section 8 the
application claims that there are “many similarities between the Harrow School case and
the proposals for the replacement ice centre.”

40. There are also very significant differences. In weighing up the Very Special
Circumstances case, the factors given greatest weight were educational need, community
use and accordance with the Harrow School SPD. None of these apply to the present
proposal:

41. Educational need – this was relevant to the specific remit of the school, which is obliged to provide physical and science education. It also has geographical constraints for reasons
of practicality and security. The Park Authority is not required to provide any specific type
of sports facility. As a Regional body providing for the whole of London it can construct an
ice centre anywhere it chooses and there is no necessity or public benefit in building it in
the proposed location. This consideration therefore should have no weight in the case
under consideration.

42. Community use – the improved and enlarged school sports building was to be made
available for extended periods for community use in a way that was not formerly possible
and which the school is not obliged to do. The Park Authority is a public authority whose
purpose is to provide publicly accessible community facilities. If this application were
refused, community benefits would continue to be provided by a replacement compliant
with MOL policy.

43. School SPD (accorded substantial weight) – Supplementary Planning Documents
augment Local Plans and can be a material consideration in planning decisions. The
proposed ice centre is not supported by any adopted planning policy document. The Park
Authority’s own Park Plan is not itself capable of being a material planning consideration
in support of its own applications.

Paul Charman
pcharman@gmail.com

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Objection of the Week #7

This objection was written by Abi on 1st March, before the licence application for the Waterworks Festival was refused by Waltham Forest Council. It covers the issues of land contamination, biodiversity, Metropolitan Open Land and community involvement:

Development Management

London Borough of Waltham Forest

The Magistrates

1 Farnan Avenue

Walthamstow

London, E17 4NX

 

By email: dmconsultations@walthamforest.gov.uk

 

To whom it may concern,

 

Lea Valley Ice Centre, Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, London, E10 7QL. Application ID: 194162

 

I wish to object to the planning application 194162 to build an ice centre on Lea Bridge Road. My objection centres on the fact that the proposal constitutes inappropriate development on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) and the applicant has not made out the case for ‘very special circumstances’ to outweigh the harm to MOL. I have also made comments about biodiversity, contaminated land and community involvement.

 

Metropolitan Open Land

The site of the proposed ice centre is MOL and it is settled law that MOL has the same protections in law as Green Belt. Section 143 of The National Planning Policy Framework (2019) states that, ‘Inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances.’

Local authorities are directed, at Section 145 of the NPPF, to regard the construction of new buildings as inappropriate in Green Belt except in a number of exceptional circumstances. The proposed development does not meet the requirements of any one of the exceptions and is, therefore, inappropriate development on Green Belt. In order to persuade the planning authority to grant planning permission, the applicant must, therefore, prove that ‘very special circumstances’ exist. It does not and the proposed development is consequently contrary to the NPPF, as well as Policy 7.17 of the London Plan, Policies G2, G3 and G4 of the Draft London Plan, Policy CS5 of the Waltham Forest Local Plan and Policy 84 of the Draft Waltham Forest Local Plan. The application must, as a result, be denied.

The applicant, the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVPRA), advances numerous reasons why ‘very special circumstances’ exist. It argues that a number of ordinary factors can combine to create ‘very special circumstances’ and suggests that the circumstances it has cobbled together can indeed to be considered ‘very special’. While it is true that Sullivan J did say, in R (Basildon District Council) v First Secretary of State and Temple [2004] EWHC (Admin) 2759 at paragraph 17, that ‘… in planning, as in ordinary life, a number of ordinary factors may when combined together result in something very special’, he went on to say that whether ‘any particular combination amounts to a very special circumstances […] will be a matter for the planning judgement of the decision-taker.’ A number of circumstances cannot automatically combine to create ‘very special circumstances’. It is therefore relevant to look at each circumstance in turn to evaluate its significance and in order to see if, collectively, the circumstances can be considered special enough to outweigh the harm to MOL.

The LVRPA argues that Waltham Forest Council should use the Harrow School decision (PINS ref: APP/M5450/W/18/3208434) as a blueprint for deciding this planning application. It suggests that the relevance of the circumstances put forward in the Harrow School case are on all fours with the circumstances it puts forward, and it suggests that the same weight given to a circumstance by the Planning Inspector in the Harrow School decision should be given to a corresponding circumstance in this decision. This approach is, however, at odds with the unique nature of a decision as to whether there are very special circumstances to outweigh the harm to Metropolitan Open Land: ‘very special circumstance’ is not, by its very nature, something that can be replicated in other places. It also completely ignores the fundamental difference between the MOL at Harrow School and the MOL around the Lee Valley Ice Centre: the former is part of a private institution from which the public are largely barred and the latter is situated within publicly accessible open green space. The relevance of a circumstance and whether it can be joined with other circumstances to create ‘very special circumstances’ is a matter for the planning judgement of the decision-taker in the local context. Furthermore, if the Harrow School decision is used as a blueprint for this decision, as the applicant desires, this application would be creating criteria against which all future applications to build on MOL would be judged, something legislators and have been circumspect about avoiding in order to allow decisions to be made on their own merit in order to protect MOL from development.

 

The circumstances are as follows:

 

  1. The LVRPA argues that that the Lee Valley Regional Park Act (1966) gives it powers to build within the Park and, given that 95% of the Park is Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land, it has automatically been given the power to build on Metropolitan Open Land. This is deeply problematic. It suggests that the LVRPA believes it is immune from subsequent legislation designed to curtail precisely what it wants to do, namely disappear valuable open green space. It also flies in the face of Abercrombie’s vision of the green and blue open spaces of the Lea Valley joined together to form a ‘great regional reservation’, which the LVRPA often uses to justify its existence.

 

  1. The LVRPA adopts a similar approach when it argues that the fact that Waltham Forest Council is obligated to treat the Park Development Framework as if it were included within its development plan in any planning determinations effectively means it can make planning decisions about its own land. The Park Development Framework makes scant reference to the ice centre, saying just, ‘options for an additional ice pad and the expansion of sporting and leisure use of the Ice Centre to be explored’. There is absolutely no analysis about the ‘very special circumstances’ that must be satisfied before a new ice centre could be built and no discussion of how big a new ice centre would be. The plans now put forward to Waltham Forest Council must be addressed on their own merit and the only body with the powers to decide whether or not the ‘very special circumstances’ exist is Waltham Forest Council.

 

  1. The LVRPA argues that the need to replace the existing ice centre which was built on MOL is justification for building on more MOL. Yet, the ice centre and surrounding land was only designated as MOL in 1989, seven years after the ice centre was built. Both Waltham Forest Council’s ‘Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land Review’ and the ‘Waltham Forest Focussed Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land Assessment’ acknowledge that the current ice centre is inappropriate development and it is unlikely that the current ice centre would have been built if a planning application was being brought forward now. The applicant might be able to argue for a new building of the same size, but a building twice the size is wholly inappropriate and would erode the openness of MOL. Although the applicant argues vociferously that this is the only site where a new ice centre can be built, local people do not agree. In fact, Waltham Forest Council’s ‘Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land Review’ goes so far as to say, at paragraph 5.16, that ‘it supports such relocation as this would provide an opportunity to rationalise the land uses in MOL3 and enhance the sense of openness, particularly views north-south along the Lea Valley’.

 

  1. The LVRPA argues that the need to develop MOL to provide ice skating for paying customers outweighs the need to protect MOL to provide green open space for people to enjoy informally and for free. I can see why it would, as an organisation, place a higher value on revenue-generating activities, but the need to make money is in no way special and cannot be, or contribute towards, a ‘very special circumstance’.

 

  1. The LVRPA argues that the community benefits provided by the current ice centre will be lost if it cannot be replaced. Notwithstanding the point that there are more appropriate sites for the ice centre in the vicinity, the LVRPA is essentially arguing that the need to develop MOL to provide ice skating for a proportionally small number of paying customers outweighs the need to protect MOL to provide green open space for many more people to enjoy informally and for free. It argues that a new ice centre will promote community cohesion, ignoring the impact of the development on those living nearby and disenfranchising the increasing number of people who value nature above all things. While there is community value in sporting facilities, community benefits are a reason for building a new ice centre and not a justification for building a new ice centre at this location.

 

If the LVRPA really believed in the social mission they are describing for the ice centre, there would already be programmes in place to, for example, bring underachieving young people at risk of involvement in anti-social behaviour into the centre or enable young people with disabilities to skate. Yet all the programmes the LVRPA describes are happening elsewhere. A case for ‘very special circumstances’ cannot be made by failing for a long time to do something and then arguing that a new building will miraculously enable you to fulfil your social obligations.

 

Furthermore, the LVRPA argues that ‘the report finds that due to the provision of greater links to the surrounding open spaces, the community are more likely to use these and enjoy the wellbeing benefits of using open space’. This suggests that the LVRPA will actually improve people’s ability to access open green space when the ice centre is built, which is patently untrue. For example, the LVRPA claims that ‘public access through the site from Lea Bridge Road to Walthamstow Marshes is relatively restricted’ (‘Landscaping details’, documents 6DF). Yet it is extremely easy to walk from Lea Bridge Road to Walthamstow Marshes along a path to the west of the current ice centre, a route that will not be significantly changed if the development proceeds. It is also extremely easy to walk from Lea Bridge Road to Walthamstow Marshes across open grassland to the east of the current ice centre, a route that will disappear under the curtilage of the new building if the development goes ahead. Building on MOL to double the size of the ice centre will not improve access to open green space.

 

  1. The LVRPA talks a lot about the health benefits of ice skating, but it fails to mention the mental health and physical health benefits of being out in nature, exploring open green space on foot and by bicycle. According to Sport England’s Active Lives Adult Survey May 18/19, walking for leisure is the most popular physical activity amongst adults, with 19.7 million adults walking at least twice a month. It is also growing in popularity, with 514,000 more people walking at least twice a month in May 18/19 than in May 17/18. If the new ice centre – which at 7029 square metres is almost double the size of the existing building – was built, open green space will be lost and the people who do not want to ice skate will be disenfranchised. A bigger ice centre might improve the physical and mental health of the few that use it, but it will bring immeasurable harm to everyone else.

 

  1. It is difficult to know how to describe the LVRPA’s argument that building on MOL will improve MOL. It is both bizarre and ludicrous and must be rejected out of hand.

 

The new building will probably look nicer than the current building, but it will be much, much bigger. It will eat into Porter’s Field, Leyton Marsh (something, incidentally, the LVRPA formally promised local people it would never do when it first started talking about the development) and it will continue the urbanisation of this stretch of Lea Bridge Road. The LVRPA even goes so far as to say that ‘the scheme will increase the townscape of this part of Lea Bridge Road’ (‘Planning statement’ (documents 6DN)). It is simply impossible to argue that increasing the townscape justifies the development when it runs entirely contrary to the concept of appropriate development on MOL (paragraph 7.56 of the London Plan states that, ‘Appropriate development should be limited to small scale structures to support outdoor open space uses and minimise any adverse impact on the openness of MOL.’).

 

The LVRPA has, as it tells us many times, been running the ice centre for 38 years. In all that time, it has resisted the considerable efforts of many local people who have lobbied for landscape and biodiversity improvements. It has neglected the area and is now using that neglect to justify developing MOL. I would go so far as to argue that this is not just not ‘a very special circumstance’, it is also a reason why the LVRPA’s promises to improve the landscape and biodiversity after they have their new ice centre cannot be trusted.

 

I will use just one example to illustrate how wary local people are of the LVRPA’s promises. The applicant provides a table in its ‘Planning statement’ (documents 6DN) that contains a breakdown of the ecological interventions it will be carrying out outside the red line boundary of the current application. This has been provided in response to Waltham Forest Council’s request for information on landscape enhancements that could be delivered to ‘mitigate’ the impact of the development. In that table, the LVRPA says that it will provide an outdoor education area, an additional grazing program, additional tree planting and a new Kingfisher nest bank in the Waterworks Nature Reserve. Kingfishers are a Schedule 1 species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1982 and any efforts to encourage them should be welcomed. Yet, the LVRPA has rented the land that abuts the Waterworks Nature Reserve to the Waterworks Festival, a company that wants to hold a festival on the site each year; a festival that promises ticketholders that it will ‘deliver the volume and sound pressure proper dance music deserves’ and tells them that ‘we are confident of levels that are unparalleled in east London’. On the one hand the LVRPA is using efforts to encourage Kingfishers to bolster its environmental credentials, and on the other it is intending to commit an offence under Section 1 (5) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1982 by intentionally disturbing a wild bird included in Schedule 1 of the Act.

 

  1. The LVRPA argues that the proposed site is the only site the ice centre can be built. However, the Eton Manor site is far more suitable and this is echoed by Waltham Forest Council’s ‘Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land Review’ which says, at paragraph 5.16, that ‘it supports such relocation as this would provide an opportunity to rationalise the land uses in MOL3 and enhance the sense of openness, particularly views north-south along the Lea Valley’.

 

The LVRPA compared a number of sites in 2015 and used the resulting scoring matrix to justify choosing the proposed site for the new ice centre (the scoring matrix has since been updated, in 2019, but since the decision to select the current site was made in 2016 this additional effort seems moot). Save Lea Marshes analysed the methodology behind the scoring matrix and found it seriously wanting (see https://saveleytonmarsh.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/leyton-marsh-is-their-no-1-choice-but-do-the-numbers-add-up/), which calls into question the validity of the decision made using it. Additionally, it fails to evaluate the relative impact of a development on the openness of Green Belt/MOL at each site when this is the fundamental question on which any application rests.

 

Furthermore, we know that the LVRPA has been in discussions with the London Legacy Development Corporation for some considerable time about building a hotel on the Eton Manor site (precisely how long is difficult to determine, as the discussions seem unnecessarily shrouded in secrecy). With this in mind, it does not seem unreasonable to conclude that the primary reason the LVRPA does not want to build a new ice centre at Eton Manor is because it wants to build both a hotel and an ice centre on MOL within Waltham Forest.

 

I will use just one example to illustrate how the evidence collected during the exercise to compare the sites appears to have been used to deliver an unfavourable outcome for the Eton Manor site and a favourable outcome for the current site. In the ‘Planning statement’ (documents 6DN), one of the reasons for downplaying the suitability of the Eton Manor site is that the ice centre would be within the blast zone of the hydrogen fuel cell at the nearby TFL bus depot. Consequently, the current site – which is not affected by a blast zone – is judged more favourably. Yet, its questionable how seriously the LVRPA ever took the risks presented by this blast zone given it is now proposing people spend the night at a hotel within the self-same blast zone.

 

The LVRPA states that, ‘the VSC case and the benefits that will accrue as a result of the development of the replacement ice centre will clearly outweigh the harm to MOL’ (my emphasis). Yet there is nothing ‘clear’ about their case. Most of the circumstances the LVRPA has advanced are not reasons why the ice centre should be built on MOL that can contribute towards ‘very special circumstances’. Many of them, in the LVRPA’s own words, are benefits that will accrue if the development goes ahead. The only circumstance that should be considered is the fact that the current ice centre will need to close if the development does not go ahead. The LVRPA argues that this means that the community will lose a sporting venue and all the benefits that go alongside it, but this is only the case if the LVRPA decides not to pursue another site for a larger ice centre. At this point, the LVRPA is claiming that there is no other site but this is not true; the Eton Manor site is a viable alternative. Consequently, the fact that the current ice centre will close is not sufficient to outweigh the harm to MOL. The LVRPA has not made a case for ‘very special circumstances’ and the application should be denied.

 

Biodiversity

The ‘Biodiversity survey and report’ (document 6D3) states that the development will provide more than the required 10% net gain in biodiversity. If the development goes ahead this should, of course, be welcomed. However, the ecological enhancements the applicant is proposing in the ‘Design and access statement’ (documents 6D7) are not dependent on the development. They could – indeed should – have been done anyway and the LVRPA should be challenged on its fitness to manage the site in the future given its poor record to date. That the site currently supports ‘largely common habitats of generally low ecological value’ (‘Design and access statement’ (documents 6D7)) is the fault of the LVRPA, no one else. Furthermore, the development will displace one of our country’s most iconic species.

 

Hedgehogs are a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and a series of species of principal importance under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. Data gathered during a survey carried out with the LVRPA in October 2016 proves that hedgehogs have made the strip of land behind the ice centre, where the mown grass meets dense scrub and trees, their home. Subsequent anecdotal evidence from dog walkers supports this evidence. This is land that will disappear inside the curtilage of the proposed development. The hedgehog population in the UK is under increasing pressure, with surveys by citizen scientists in 2018 showing that hedgehog numbers have fallen by about 50% since the turn of the century (www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/pdf/sobh-2018.pdf). Attempts to relocate hedgehogs away from the proposed site of a car park for HS2 and further into Regent’s Park have failed, demonstrating how territorial hedgehogs are (www.royalparks.org.uk/managing-the-parks/conservation-and-improvement-projects/hedgehogs/hedgehog-research-reports). These two facts combine to demonstrate that the proposed development will result in the eradication of hedgehogs from this part of Leyton Marsh.

 

The applicant states that 20 trees and 184 square metres of scrub vegetation will be destroyed to make way for the development. While the applicant undertakes, in their plans, to plant 140 additional trees it is important to recognise that mature trees cannot be replaced by smaller trees that will struggle to establish and reach maturity because of the engineered surfaces around them.

 

Significantly, the architect and landscape architect employed by the applicant admit that it is nigh on impossible to find a way to ensure the plans they develop – whether they be biodiversity plans, low carbon plans, plans to use responsibly-sourced recycled materials during the build or plans to limit noise and light – are implemented in full. Any benefits described by the applicants are possible future benefits, possible future benefits that might not materialise, and they come at a cost to existing wildlife and to the local community. If the development were to be granted permission, it would be critical that robust long-term planning conditions were put in place to ensure the LVRPA keeps to its biodiversity promises given the way they have let the site deteriorate up till now. Similarly, it would be important that strong planning conditions were put in place to ensure the low-carbon, environmentally-sensitive design and build criteria that minimise light and noise pollution are not watered down by the contractor during the build.

 

Contaminated land

 

Many people enjoy spending time in open green space throughout the year and Porter’s Field, Leyton Marsh, adjacent to the site, is particularly well used by people of all ages. Given this, it is concerning that the ‘Land contamination assessment’ (documents 6DD) does not contain a category that encompasses these people. It states that there is a high risk of illness caused by ingestion, dermal contact and inhalation of asbestos fibres and dust during construction, and a high risk of onsite sources of contamination leaching through surface permeable soils and harming construction workers. Surely people walking close to the site during construction will be exposed to as much risk as construction workers? But, while risk to construction works can be mitigated from high to moderate with the appropriate use of PPE and implementation of CDM regulations, what happens to those using the area informally to walk their dogs and play football? How are they going to be protected?

 

This issue is of particularly concern to local people given the cavalier way the Olympic Delivery Authority, working on the applicant’s land and with the applicant’s oversight, managed the very same situation when the temporary basketball training centre was built on Porter’s Field in 2012. Huge piles of contaminated soil were left uncovered for weeks, and the risks to health were constantly underplayed. This must not happen again. If the development were to be granted permission, it would be critical that robust planning conditions were put in place to protect everyone in the vicinity of the building site from harm.

 

If the development were to be granted permission, planning conditions should also be put in place that ensure the applicant not only monitors groundwater and gas throughout the build phase, but has a plan in place to fully mitigate any adverse effects of contamination quickly. The LVRPA, in part, justifies this development with reference to the increase in biodiversity they claim will result. This will mean little if the development has caused significant damage to the environment as it is being built.

 

Community involvement

 

It is not clear how far the wishes of local people factor into planning decisions. However, the applicant has gone to great lengths to explain how it has consulted with the community about its plans and it claims that the feedback it has received has been positive. Yet, this is questionable for several reasons:

 

  1. The engagement was skewed towards ice centre users: It is much easier for the applicant to reach individuals who use its facilities and they are more likely to be positive about new facilities. In contrast, those who oppose the plans are more diffuse, harder to reach and are usually represented by local organisations. Detailed criticisms produced by one local organisation representing hundreds of people is counted as one voice opposing the plan, while a tick box questionnaire completed in minutes by hundreds of ice centre users as they pass through the door is counted as hundreds of voices.
  2. The questionnaires were designed to collect data that would result in a positive response to the plans: Despite the impression given by the few questions included in the report, the questionnaires focused on asking people if they would like particular aspects of the development. It did not ask them their opinion on negative aspects of the development, such as loss of open green space, and it did not give people space to articulate their concerns.

 

It should also be noted that the ‘Statement of community involvement’ (documents 6DQ) misrepresents the view of Save Lea Marshes. It states:

 

Local community group, Save Lea Marshes (SLM) […] raised concerns about several areas, including: […]

  • the impact of increasing car parking on site and how this would affect congestion, traffic and pollution. They added that it made more sense to spread sporting venues across an area to encourage users to travel to different places and avoid the concentration of traffic in one location.

 

In fact, what we said was almost the opposite. When examining the LVRPA’s objections to building the ice centre at the Eton Manor site we referred to the following argument made by the LVRPA:

 

“the Eton Manor site currently has 140 parking spaces which are all needed at evenings and weekends; they will become a premium as the centre develops its programme. A new twin pad ice centre will need circa 220 parking spaces but there is insufficient space to accommodate this amount of ‘onsite parking’. Even if additional space could be found it is unlikely that the London Legacy Development Corporation would agree to this land being used because of their policy of traffic restraint.”

 

And responded as follows:

 

Waltham Forest Council also have a policy of traffic restraint and the current proposal for the new ice centre appears to suggest that the existing 140 car parking places at the LVIC will be retained or reduced, so the LVRPA’s previous requirements for car parking spaces have been downgraded and there is parity between the number of spaces available at Eton Manor and the number of spaces available at Lea Bridge Road. The LVRPA should not be undertaking activities that increase car usage anywhere and, consequently, it makes sense to cluster sporting venues at a sporting campus rather than spread them out and encourage more people to travel down the already crowded and polluted Lea Bridge Road. Major events at more than one of the venues at the same time are also likely to be very rare, so the perceived pressure on the existing spaces at Eton Manor is unlikely to materialise.

 

These issues are raised in part to put the record straight, but also to illustrate how the company carrying out the market research on behalf of the LVRPA has interpreted the information it received in such a way as to project an image of local support for the project. If the market research had been carried out by a neutral organisation that was not being paid by the applicant, the findings may have been very different.

 

With best wishes

Abigail Woodman

Save Lea Marshes

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Objection of the Week #6

Proposed building overlaid (blue) on current Lee Valley Ice Centre (red)

Objection number six is from Laurie. He explores in detail how the new ice centre will be inappropriate development on Metropolitan Open Land and why a new facility would be better situated elsewhere in the Lee Valley Park:

Dear Sirs,

I wish to object to the planning application for a new ice centre on the Lea Bridge Road and set out my grounds below.

 

 

  1. The proposed new twin pad Ice centre constitutes Inappropriate Development for the purposes of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

 

The following matters constitute common ground between Save Lea Marshes (hereafter “SLM”):

 

  • Relevant Provisions of National Planning Policy Framework (“NPPF”)

 

The following provisions of NPPF are engaged by this application:

 

  1. Inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances.

 

  1. When considering any planning application, local planning authorities should ensure that substantial weight is given to any harm to the Green Belt. ‘Very special circumstances’ will not exist unless the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm resulting from the proposal, is clearly outweighed by other considerations.

 

  1. A local planning authority should regard the construction of new buildings as inappropriate in the Green Belt. Exceptions to this are:

  1. d) the replacement of a building, provided the new building is in the same use and not materially larger than the one it replaces; …

 

As officers are aware, it is settled law that references to “Green Belt” incorporate references to Metropolitan Open Land (“MOL”)

 

  • The replacement ice centre is not merely materially larger than the present ice centre but is massively larger.

 

It is well-established by case law, see in particular Heath and Hampstead society, R (on the application of) v London Borough of Camden [2007] EWHC 977 (Admin) that the test whether the replacement of a building is  inappropriate by reason of NPPF 145(d) is

primarily an objective one by reference to size”

The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority accept that the proposed new ice centre is inappropriate by virtue of 145(d) and that they therefore rely on the “very special circumstances” objection.

The existing ice centre has a footprint of 3,596 sqm.  The proposed replacement facility has a footprint of 8,417 sqm, an increase of 135%.  Given that case law clearly shows that “size matters” in judging the appropriateness of a replacement development, the massively enlarged footprint of this proposed development is a matter to which the Council should give great weight.

  • This application will only succeed if the Council concludes that “very special circumstances” apply for the purposes of Paragraph 144 of NPPF. “Very special circumstances” can only apply if the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm resulting from the proposal, are clearly outweighed by other considerations.

 

Harm must be assessed by reference to the size of the proposed new development and its impact on the openness of the Green Belt.  It is not sufficient for the Park Authority to argue that the Lea Bridge site is the most appropriate, the starting point must be an assessment of the harm to the Green Belt resulting from the development of this site.

 

  • The Park Authority’s case rests on the submission that the current location represents the “most appropriate site”

Appendix 1 to the Park Authority’s planning statement together with the various sub-Appendices go to this question.  There are numerous flaws in the Park Authority’s comparative analysis which are discussed below.

 

  1. The Park Authority’s Analysis is fundamentally flawed because it fails to give due weight to the impact of this proposed development on the Green Belt.

 

  1. The starting point for the Council, in analysing this submission, is to consider the purposes which Green Belt designation seeks to serve as set out in Para 134 of NPPF:
  2. a) to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas;
  3. b) to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another;
  4. c) to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment.

 

  1. The Park Authority’s application assumes throughout that “all MOL is equal” and by implication, any equivalent ice centre development on any parcel of MOL has equal impact. The Council should pay particular attention to the Site Evaluation and scoring matrix prepared by the Park Authority and submitted in support of this application.  This wholly lacks any MOL assessment or evaluation of the impact of the proposed development on the openness of the Green Belt.

 

  1. The impact of the development upon the openness of the Green Belt is a central issue which the Park Authority wholly side steps. It is a central issue in the John Lyon case, of which the Park Authority make much in their application, and a key factor in the John Lyon case was that significant views across the Green Belt would not be affected by the development. John Lyon followed the case of Turner v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Anor [2016] EWCA Civ 466 which provides comprehensive guidance on the correct approach to openness.

 

  1. The new proposed Ice Centre would create an urban frontage (i.e. the proposed extended building + associated car parking) extending from close to the existing Essex Wharf development to the former aqueduct. This is shown clearly in Figure 2 of the Park Authority’s Planning Statement in which the footprint of the proposed new development is shown by the red line:

 

 

It should be noted that, to the east of the aqueduct, the openness has already been very significantly compromised by the Park Authority’s riding centre which has been enlarged by the Authority on 13 separate occasions.

  1. Figure 2 provides a very helpful basis for a before and after comparison. The present ice centre, although unsightly, occupies only a limited part of the road frontage and the continuity of the Park – the green chain of open spaces – is preserved.  That will be eliminated if the application is allowed.  Effectively the new proposed Ice Centre would merge the built-up areas of Hackney (+ Essex Wharf) to the west, and Walthamstow to the east, – something which Green Belt designation is expressly designed to prevent.

 

  1. In contrast with the Park Authority’s analysis, which contains no MOL Assessment, Waltham Forest Council has carried out an assessment as part of the Regulation 18 consultation process for the new emerging local plan. In relation to the Ice Centre site (referred to as MOL 3) the Council’s assessment states

“This MOL represents an important strategic open space between the built up areas to the west (Hackney) and the east (Walthamstow).  The majority of the parcel is clearly distinguishable from the built up area.” (Emphasis added)

In answer to the question “Does the MOL form part of a green chain or link in the network of green infrastructure?” the assessment notes

“The whole parcel falls within the Lee Valley Regional Park and includes the Lee Valley Pathway and several other public rights of way.  The whole parcel lies within the River Lea and Tributaries archaeological primary zone.  The Lee Valley ice Centre currently detracts from the continuity of the “green chain” along the Lea Valley both visually and in terms of ecological connectivity”

It is very important to contrast this assessment with the assessment of one of the alternative sites – MOL 6 – adjacent to the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis site (hereafter “the Eton Manor Site”) which was rejected by the Park Authority.

In relation to MOL 6 the Assessment states that individually,

 

Parcel MOL6 is not a large enough area of open land to be considered of regional importance and therefore its continued designation as MOL would not be appropriate and further [although] the whole parcel lies within the Lee Valley Regional Park… in isolation the parcel would not be considered MOL.”

MOL 6 in other words is an isolated pocket of land which does not separate urban districts in the same way and is not part of the connected green chain of open spaces which the designation of the Regional Park was specifically designed to preserve.

I submit that the Council is obliged to give weight to its own MOL Assessment which is part of the evidence gathering process for its own emerging replacement Local Plan.

  1. In seeking to sidestep this issue the Park Authority’s Planning Statement argues at Para 1.48  of Appendix 1

“To put the quantity of development into context, the proposed development will equate to just 0.0001828% of Lee Valley Regional Park’s Green Belt or MOL (which forms 95% of the Park), based on a proposed building footprint of 7,029 sqm. This is an extremely low figure in the context of the LVRPA MOL and Green Belt designation and does not begin consider the entire MOL and green belt designations across London and the surrounding area. Therefore, the existing LVIC site would have a minimal impact on the purpose and function of the MOL of the Lee Valley Regional Park, London and the surrounding area.”

This amounts to saying that it is acceptable to build on this section of Green Belt (or in this case the Regional Park) because other sections of the Green Belt are unaffected!   It is an argument which could be applied by analogy to any development of Green Belt – it doesn’t matter if we destroy the openness of this bit of the Green Belt because there is plenty more Green Belt to go round. 

This argument goes diametrically against the structure of planning guidance which states that the Green Belt must be protected by controlling developments which inter alia, materially increase the built footprint of what is already there.  If the Park Authority’s argument were accepted, it would render the whole of Paragraph 145 a nullity.  The argument is particularly insidious coming from the Park Authority which is entrusted by Act of Parliament with the primary duty to protect the Lee Valley Park as a place for the occupation of leisure.

  1. It should be noted that when the Park Authority consulted upon the present site selection, I, together with others, urged the Park Authority, in constructing its scoring matrix, to give weight to the character of alternative sites under consideration and the environmental impact upon the Park. This the Park Authority declined to do.  Its scoring matrix gives no weight whatsoever to the impact of the proposed development on the openness and connectedness of the Regional Park.

 

  1. The Council should not rely upon the Park Authority’s Scoring Matrix but should make its own assessment of alternative sites in deciding whether the very special circumstances exception applies to the proposed development on this site.

The Park Authority’s case necessarily rests on its scoring matrix to show that Lea Bridge is the most appropriate site for the Ice Centre.  In its original matrix, Lea Bridge was considered against three other sites, namely land on the site of the Park Authority’s Waterworks Centre and car park (“the Waterworks Site”), land adjacent to the Park Authority’s Hockey and Tennis Centre , (the “Eton Manor Site”), and land at Picketts Lock in Enfield .

As is clear from submitted documents, the result of the original scoring matrix was very close.  The Lea Bridge Site was scored at 74.6%, the Waterworks Site at 72.6% and the Eton Manor Site at 70%.  Picketts Lock was scored at 65.1%.

For the present application, the Park Authority and their consultants have re-marked those sites and also introduced further comparators including the Thames Water Depot and Broxbourne.

The new grading purports to demonstrate a much wider gap between Leabridge and the original comparator sites.  Lea Bridge is now scored at 77.7%. Eton Manor at 62.8% and the Waterworks at 60.8%.

Since it is the nub of the Park Authority’s “very special circumstances” case that alternative sites are less appropriate, the Council is bound to look through the Park Authority’s assessments, and conduct its own analysis of alternative prospective sites before deciding whether the very special circumstances exception applies.  The regrading is clearly an exercise in advocacy for the outcome sought by the Authority and cannot be safely relied upon.

In Section D of this submission, I will point out that in relation to one of the comparator sites, Eton Manor, the Park Authority’s Planning Statement appears to be actively misleading.   Before dealing with that point, I make the following observations on the scoring matrix.

 

 

  • As previously noted, the Lea Bridge site was originally marked only marginally ahead of alternative venues

The Lea Bridge site was originally scored at 74.6%, the Waterworks Site at 72.6% and the Eton Manor Site at 70%.  Given that the Authority is now being invited to apply very special circumstances to allow development on a site which its own assessment rates as being of “strategic importance”, it should have regard to this close margin.

  • The Park Authority has failed to keep alternative options under review as its plans for the Ice centre have developed

 

At an early stage the Park Authority realised that the plans which informed its scoring matrix could not be delivered within budget.  The Park Authority approved in April 2019 a scaling down of the Ice Centre footprint from 10,450 sqm to 8,300 sqm and a large reduction in associated car parking.  Since constraints upon site size and/or car parking were said to be determining factors against the selection of either the Waterworks Site or the Eton Manor Site the Park Authority was invited to reconsider its site selection in the light of the reduced footprint.  This the Park Authority declined to do.

 

  • As already indicated, the scoring matrix contained no weighting for an MOL Assessment

 

As already noted, having regard to the purposes of Green Belt protection, as outlined in Para 134 of NPPF, there should have been a comparative MOL assessment and this should have been given a high weighting.

 

  • The weighting fails properly to reflect traffic and congestion issues

 

It is of the essence of the current application that the “elite” ice pad will be a sporting venue which will inevitably attract peak traffic flows when events are staged – hence the requirement for a large, albeit reduced, car park.  Although the Planning Statement seeks to minimise this issue, it is clear that many of these events will be staged in the evening when traffic generated by the venue will compete with peak rush hour flows.

 

Whilst not wishing to endorse undue car use, it should be noted that the Eton Manor Site has the merit of being adjacent to high capacity 106(M) and A12 motorways.

 

By contrast, all traffic to the Lea Bridge site must approach by Leabridge Road leading to inevitable severe congestion and pollution.  In disregarding this matter in the scoring matrix, the Park Authority possibly relegated this consideration as an external cost.  However Para 144 NPPF clearly requires “any other harm resulting from the proposal” to be taken into account in deciding whether “very special circumstances” apply. This is, therefore, highly relevant to the planning assessment.

 

  • The Scoring Matrix mis-states the relative merits of the Lea Bridge site and the Eton Manor Site in terms of public transport

The original scoring matrix (applied when Park Authority members approved this site) placed emphasis on the availability of the newly reopened Lea Bridge Station, at 9 minutes walking distance.  The Park Authority’s scoring matrix gave no weight to the fact that the train service at Lea Bridge has 15 minute intervals and contained impossible assumptions for travel times including a 9 assumed minute journey time from the Ice Centre to Tottenham Hale.  Eton Mills was marked down disregarding the fact that there is a 10 minute walk to Leyton Station on the Central Line with two minute service intervals.

If Eton Manor were selected, there is the obvious likelihood that a loop bus service to Stratford (with excellent onward connections) could be developed serving the expanding Chobham Manor housing development and the Hockey and Tennis Centre as well as the Ice Centre.

  • The Scoring Matrix disregards the obvious synergies between the Eton Manor Site and the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre and the Lee Valley Velodrome

 

There are obvious sporting and logistical synergies arising if the Ice Centre is placed adjacent to the Hockey and Tennis Centre.  The most significant is the use of car parking.   The Hockey and Tennis Centre is served by a very large car park which is largely empty apart from major sporting events which are quite infrequent.

 

A search on the “Events” tab for the Authority’s Hockey and Tennis Centre https://www.visitleevalley.org.uk/en/content/cms/london2012/lee-valley-hockey-tennis/events/ lists international hockey events on the following dates all at 2.00 p.m.

 

2nd May

3rd May

16th May

17th May

24th May

25th May

13th June

14th June

 

There are other club events (not searchable on the Park Authority’s website) but it appears clear that there are only eight events within the next three months likely to place any significant demand on the Authority’s car parking facilities at Eton Manor

 

It appears obvious that with a little planning it should be possible to minimise the occasions when there are conflicts between major Ice Centre events and major Hockey Centre events, saving on car parking space, with obvious saving of financial and ecological resources.   There are likely to be other advantages, over time, in linking the Ice Centre, the Hockey and Tennis Centre, and the Lee Valley Velodrome as one sporting campus.

 

  • The Scoring Matrix mis-states ground and landscape restraints

 

The scoring matrix scores the Lea Bridge Site higher than the Eton Manor Site implying that there are fewer ground and landscape restraints at Lea Bridge.  That scoring was originally done before any assessment of the constraints affecting Lea Bridge.  It has since emerged that the Lea Bridge Site involves the felling of mature trees (consistently understated by the Park Authority) and the disturbance of habitat necessitating the creation of what the Park Authority has disparagingly described as “hedgehog hotels” which are likely in practice to be of very doubtful efficacy

  • The Scoring Matrix contains a confirmation bias in favour of the current site

The scoring matrix inevitably contains systematic confirmation bias in favour of the outcome sought by the Park Authority.  For example:

  1. Weightings in the scoring matrix for “current catchment” (given higher weight than “future catchment”) and expressions of support inevitably favour the status quo and should be given no weight in considering “very special circumstances”.
  2. “Community stakeholder” support and “Sporting stakeholder support” inevitably reflect the fact that the Park Authority has solicited such support
  3. “Impact on business plan” is an essentially circular scoring criterion which reflects that the Authority is invested in the outcome it seeks and should have no place in this “very special circumstances” evaluation.

 

  • The Park Authority has sought to sell both the Waterworks Site and the Eton Manor Site and this calls into question the objectivity of its scoring matrix.

This matter goes to the heart of the fairness and objectivity of the Park Authority’s case that “very special circumstances” should be applied to give consent to development at Lea Bridge.

The Waterworks Site

The Council will be aware that the Park Authority approached the Waltham Forest Regeneration Team in early 2016 (before Park Authority members had approved the selection of the Lea Bridge Site) with a view to zoning the Waterworks Site for housing, referred to as “enabling development” to finance the Ice Centre.  This proposal at one stage appeared to be supported by Waltham Forest in its so-called “Eastside Vision” planning consultation.

As a result of strong public reaction, that aspect of Eastside Vision is no longer being advocated by the Council and the Park Authority states that it no longer requires enabling development to finance the Ice Centre as it is able to borrow the necessary funds at current very low rates of interest.  Nevertheless, the Park Authority continues to seek the opportunity to sell off the Waterworks Site as development land and the Council will be aware that the Park Authority has offered up this site in response to the Council’s current Call for Sites.

The Eton Manor Site

The Park Authority is negotiating to sell off the Eton Manor Site for a hotel development on a long lease which, it has stated, will raise both capital and revenue for the Authority. It is our understanding that a planning application has not as yet been submitted to the London Legacy Development Corporation.  See further section D of this objection.

The issue this raises is as follows.  The Park Authority has a clear and documented strategy, its “Corporate Land and Property Strategy”, of financing its activities (and reducing its financial levy) in part through sales of land deemed no longer required for Park purposes.  Both the alternative sites in Waltham Forest evaluated by the Park for comparative purposes are earmarked for sale in due course.

The Park Authority will no doubt argue that both the Waterworks Site and the Eton Manor Site were rejected after a rigorous evaluation, and that only after that exercise was completed were alternatives for those sites considered and disposal decided upon (notwithstanding that the known chronology of discussions about the Waterworks Site puts that in doubt).  In dealing with the current “very special circumstances” application, the Council as Planning Authority must regard those submissions with proper scepticism.  Not to put too fine a point on it, the merits of the alternative sites for the Ice Centre may have been understated because the Park Authority wishes to sell off those sites.

  1. Objections to the Eton Manor site mentioned in the Park Authority’s Planning Statement may be actively misleading.

The Park Authority has since 2016 been actively pursuing plans to sell off land at the Eton Manor site on a long lease for a Hotel Development.

The following is a verbatim quote from the Authority working paper A/4274/19 approved at a meeting of the full Park Authority on 17th October 2019.  This can be accessed at

https://www.leevalleypark.org.uk/en/content/cms/corporate/about-us/meeting-documents/authority-meetings/

Following a detailed marketing exercise for a leisure development on the Eton Manor site, a hotel development proposal was chosen in March as the preferred option.  The proposed development which will complement Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre and support activities and business in the north of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park comprises a 98 bed hotel, a significant fitness gym (for hotel guests and Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park visitors) and a food and beverage outlet.

The Authority will gain financially through a capital sum and revenue stream as part of a long term lease arrangement.

It is apparent that this proposed hotel development would occupy the area previously earmarked for playing pitches making Appendix 1.5 to the Park Authority’s Planning Statement wholly irrelevant.

Appendix 1 to the Park Authority’s Planning Statement comprises a discussion of alternative sites under the heading “The most appropriate site”.  It is stated there as follows:

1.31. The 2016 assessment considered Eton Manor to be less favourable than the current ice centre site to be the site of the replacement ice centre. In the intervening period, proposals for the Eton Manor site have advanced. The adopted Local Plan is currently being reviewed and the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) revised Local Plan submission draft includes modifications that have removed the reference to five-a-side football pitches at paragraph

11.3. The submission draft includes a new reference which states:

“The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre at Eton Manor and the Lee Valley Velo Park are world class sports facilities. Originally developed for the London 2012 Olympic Games and subsequently transformed they are both important national leisure and sporting venues hosting local, national and international events and support the Legacy Corporation’s aspiration to deliver a sporting legacy for local communities. The two venues are owned by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and are managed through a leisure trust. The Legacy Corporation continues to work closely with and support the Park Authority as it seeks to improve and grow the offer associated with the venues and thereby ensure their long term sustainability. This includes the further development of the land and facilities associated with the Hockey and Tennis Centre at Eton Manor which can complement the rest of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.” (Our emphasis).

1.32. This modification reflects the resounding success of the International Hockey major events programme. The site is now safeguarded for development of facilities associated with the Hockey and Tennis Centre. A new ice centre would take space and create a footfall clash that would compromise the international events programme that England Hockey hold at the venue. The success of the International Hockey events programme means that the site is seen as the UK’s national hockey centre for major international events and now has a worldwide reputation as this. If the ice centre were to take-up the space and capacity on site, the ability to host international events would be compromised and, simply, the events will not come to London. As such the venue’s world level status would be lost.

1.33. Therefore, the site is no longer available to be considered as an alternative site for the replacement ice centre.

1.34. In short, since 2016 the Park Authority and England Hockey are certain that Eton Manor is no longer available (or suitable) to accommodate the replacement ice centre.

These paragraphs appear to be at the very least economical with the truth in that:

  • “The further development of the land and facilities associated with the Hockey and Tennis Centre at Eton Manor” appears to refer to the hotel facility refer to above. The use of the word “associated” seems highly misleading.

 

  • Similarly the reference to the fact that the site is now safeguarded for development of facilities associated with the Hockey and Tennis Centre implies that the Hockey and Tennis Centre is to be in some why developed or enlarged. There are in fact no such plans.

 

  • The submission strongly implies that the land adjacent to the Hockey and Tennis centre has to be safeguarded to avoid the international status of the Hockey Centre being compromised. There is no evidence to support that.  It is interesting to note that the Park Authority Minutes 18th October 2018 state:

 

Eton Manor – Hockey & Tennis Centre are under used, hoping to activate the site and add value to the Olympic Park, such as adding visitor accommodation. We are currently starting a soft marketing campaign to see what market interest there is.

 

Far from supporting the proposition that the land is needed to support the Hockey and Tennis Centre the minutes evidence that the Park Authority has been scrabbling around to find some alternative use for this land.

 

  • The previous discussion in this objection about future events show that the alleged footfall clash alleged does not in fact exist.

 

I submit that the reality is that the Park Authority has no plans for the Eton Manor site which can be meaningfully said to be associated with the Hockey and Tennis Centre.  The reality is that the Authority has been looking for the most profitable use of spare land and has come up with the hotel proposal.  That proposal has not yet been the subject of any public consultation nor has it gone to planning.  The land is not therefore committed to any alternative use and could be used for an Ice Centre.

Furthermore, an elite Ice Centre adjacent to the Olympic Park would clearly be an excellent sporting legacy.

Because the Park Authority’s summary of the position concerning Eton Manor is so misleading, the Council should give no weight to it in deciding what is “the most appropriate site” and whether “very special circumstances apply”.   The Council will need to conduct its own investigation and interrogate the Park Authority about its plans for the Eton Manor Site.

 

  1. The Council is commended to take a consistent approach with its determination of the application for two academy schools in the Thames Water Site.

The Council took a correct and principled approach to this application which was considered at the Council’s Planning Committee on 25th March 2019.  Paragraph 1 of the minutes of the Committee’s decision state as follows:

The proposed development would, by reason of its use represent inappropriate development in Metropolitan Open Land and by reason of its siting, height, excessive foot print, scale, bulk, massing and location, would not protect and enhance the existing green infrastructure, access to the open space complement and improve the quality of the open space, thereby causing substantial harm to its openness.

It is submitted that the siting, height, footprint, scale, bulk, massing and location of the proposed Ice Centre would all have a greater detrimental effect on the quality and openness of open space.

Applying the balancing exercise required by Paragraph 144 of NPPF, a consistent approach would point clearly to the conclusion that “very special circumstances” have not been made out.

 

In Conclusion

It is clear that a very unusual assessment is required in this case.

The Park Authority, seeks a very major expansion of a built development on MOL of great strategic importance and asks the Council to invoke “very special circumstances” to permit a development which is otherwise plainly inappropriate.  It is the essence of the Park Authority’s case that alternative sites have been evaluated and found to be unsuitable.  This case has not been made out and that the Council is bound to conduct its own evaluation.  Although the Eton Manor Site would also be on MOL; having regard to its lesser strategic significance, and other factors, it would actually make a better site for the Ice Centre and that therefore “very special circumstances” do not favour the Lea Bridge Site.

Finally, I would draw attention to what is stated in the Council’s own assessment of MOL 3:

The Lee Valley ice Centre currently detracts from the continuity of the “green chain” along the Lea Valley both visually and in terms of ecological connectivity”

If an alternative site is selected, MOL3, a site of strategic importance, can be restored as part of the “green chain” which the designation of the Lee Valley Regional Park was intended to achieve.

 

Yours sincerely,

Laurie Elks.

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Objection of the Week #5

Here’s Vicky Sholund’s multi-faceted objection to the new Lee Valley Ice Centre being situated at Leyton Marsh.

You can still submit relevant objections to: dmconsultations@walthamforest.gov.uk

Application number: 194162

I am writing as someone who lives in Hackney and spends at least a couple of hours every day on the marshes.  I have lived here for about 30 years and in the past few years have seen an incredible increase in the number of people walking and spending quiet time in the marshes.  This means there is a need for more green space to accommodate all of these people, not less.  I have also known people over the years who have used the ice centre, and none of them have used it because it is on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL).  They would quite happily use a new one if it was easy enough to access, which Eton Manor is.

It does not constitute part of this objection to make a case for another site although I think a good case could be made in for Eton Manor if the LVRPA are keen to build a new ice centre. Eton Manor was one of the sites originally being considered by the LVRPA for the new ice centre, the MOL reports states: “5.26 Subject to detailed feasibility assessment, the site could make a good location for the Lea Valley Ice Centre.”

Leyton Marsh ((winning image from our marshes photo competition: copyright Rebecca McLaren)

The main basis of my objection is to point out that the reasons the applicant has given as Very Special Circumstances (VSC) for building on this site do not constitute Very Special Circumstances – not as individual points, nor do the individual points add up to one large VSC.

Here are some of the VSC that the applicant lists and the arguments against:

  1. The LVRPA’s “duty”. Paragraph 16.21 states that the LVRPA “has a statutory duty to develop sports and leisure facilities in the Regional Park.  Since 95% of the Park is Green Belt or MOL, it is likely that some new facilities will be developed on protected land.”  But the LVRPA has a “statutory duty” to do many things under the 1966 Act, and the provision of sports and leisure facilities is only one part (and not necessarily the most important part) of its remit.  And, more importantly, nothing in the 1966 Act says that the need to provide such facilities entitles the LVRPA to override other considerations.  The 1966 Act does not give a minimum provision of any particular facilities, so such provision should be subject to all other relevant constraints.  There is no basis for arguing that the need to provide a specific facility constitutes a VSC.  The fact that the LVRPA currently provides skating facilities to the public does not place any obligation on it to go on doing so.  Until 2012, the LVRPA provided golfing facilities at the Waterworks.  When it stopped doing so, this was not because of any lack of demand from the public, but because it thought that it could make more money by using the Waterworks site for other purposes.  There was enough protest from golfers at the time, that the LVRPA promised to re-open the golf course after the Olympics campsite, but broke that promise.

It is simply impossible to argue that increasing the townscape justifies the development when it runs entirely contrary to the concept of appropriate development on MOL (Paragraph 7.56 of the London Plan states that, ‘Appropriate development should be limited to small scale structures to support outdoor open space uses and minimise any adverse impact on the openness of MOL.’

  1. The need to have an operational ice centre. The present ice centre is nearing the end of its life and will soon no longer be able to function.  The LVRPA states that the need to replace it is a VSC, because this sort of facility must exist in this area.  However, this “need” is generated entirely by the LVRPA — if they had not built the current ice centre (in the 1980s), then there would be no particular demand to build a bigger and better one now.  It may be that the LBWF would like to have an ice centre somewhere within the borough, but there is no reason that it has to be where it is, or on LVRPA land, or even that it needs be provided by the LVRPA. And the need for the applicant to make money is also not a special circumstance.  So, there is no VSC involved here.
  2. There is no other twin-pad ice centre in London. How is this a VSC?  The applicant does not explain the relevance of this fact.  Nor does it explain why the only twin-pad ice centre in London has to be on Leyton Marsh, or as in point 2, why it has to be on LVRPA land or provided by the LVRPA.
  3. Increased usage. In paragraphs 10.43 to 10.56, the LVRPA explains how a larger ice centre will result in more availability to the public and more availability to sports clubs – which will better enable it to fulfil its “duty” (as described earlier) and so this is also a VSC.  But a closer reading of paragraph 10.48 shows that this is just a way of saying that the LVRPA will earn more revenue from a larger facility.  Such a commercial argument cannot constitute a VSC.  It is also the case that removing the ice centre from the site entirely will increase the usage of the site by walkers, outdoor exercise groups, nature lovers, dog trainers, etc, which will in fact be decreased if the new centre is built as it will extend onto currently open green space.  The provision of space for those sorts of recreation is also one of the LVRPA’s duties.
  4. Community benefits. In Section 11, the applicant describes the benefits that would accrue to the community from the new ice centre and claims them as a VSC.  Many of these may indeed be genuine benefits, but the suggestion that they constitute a VSC depends crucially upon the premise that there is no other possible location for the new ice centre and that “the community” is largely made up of ice skaters.  However, by far the majority of people who go to that part of the marshes are walkers, dog walkers, nature lovers, runners, etc.  There is no benefit for them of having such a large building urbanising what is a well-loved green space.

The applicant has consistently ignored this part of the community.  In the original “consultation” it ran to decide on which of four potential sites the new ice centre should be built on, they only put up notices of the consultation meetings at the ice centre.  When local people found out, they went to the “consultations” and made their views plain, but it was clear the LVRPA had already decided to build the new centre on the current site before the “consultations” even took place.

In June 2019, two members of Save Lea Marshes were invited to a pre-consultation meeting with the LVRPA to see the plans and talk to the landscaper and architect.  We were promised that notices for the consultation would be put up all over the park so that the non ice skating users of the marshes would know about it.  This didn’t happen until a couple of days before the end of the consultation period, despite several emails to the person responsible for publicity about it.  This of course skewed the consultation results as the majority of responses were from ice centre users.

The benefits for the majority of marsh users are site-specific, dependent on the marshes remaining open green space.  The benefits for the ice skaters are not site specific – i.e. they need a building to ice skate in, but it doesn’t have to be on Leyton Marsh.

  1. Health benefits. In Section 12, the applicant describes the health benefits that may result from the new ice centre and claims that they also constitute a VSC.  This is analogous to the community benefits described above.  They may be genuine benefits, but they could only be considered to be a VSC if there is no other possible location for the new ice centre.  And again, while the presence of the ice centre may be beneficial to some people (those who patronise it), it will have the opposite effect on other people (those who would enjoy this area of Leyton Marsh if it were undeveloped).  The main benefit would be to the LVRPA, who place more importance on provision to paying customers than to non-paying users of the park.

Other considerations re health benefits:

  •   enhancing the provision, visibility and accessibility of green space available for walking for leisure outweighs the LVRPA’s argument for paid leisure activities; research shows that it is the former which is patently more beneficial for both mental and physical health of a greater portion of the population than elite sporting venues for athletes and spectators.
  •   Studies have shown that visits to green spaces improve the self-esteem, mental well-being and social lives of people with disabilities. Improving accessibility to Leyton Marsh from Lea Bridge Road could have a more positive impact on those with disabilities than providing an accessible leisure venue.
  • Studies on obesity levels among children show that levels are lower when there is more nearby green space to their residence. Proximity to green spaces is associated with reduced anxiety and mood disorder.
  • The applicants have over-estimated the benefits of paid-for indoor leisure activity and underestimated the value of free access to nature in their assessment of the LVIC site and have therefore not proven very special circumstances in terms of location.

Other points to make in argument for denying the application:

  1. Transport:  The Lea Bridge Road is already heavily congested.  If the applicant is correct in its assessment that usage will increase with a new ice centre (a contention that is debatable), then it follows that it will bring an increase in traffic on the Lea Bridge Road as that is the only route to the ice centre.  Eton Manor is much better served by public transport links and will thereby be more in keeping with current policy of sustainable transport and decrease in car use.
  2. Pollution:  the applicant acknowledges that pollution will increase due to the increase in car use that goes with a larger facility at this site but offers various offsetting solutions.  Offsetting has become somewhat discredited as it rarely results in reductions of pollution – at best resulting in the status quo.  Increasing the levels of pollution in the area is in contravention of the council’s Air Quality Action Plan.  It is also another example of the needs of one part of the community (ice centre users) being seen as more important than another (green space users), although of course pollution will affect everyone who spends time in the area, or even just walks or cycles through it.
  3. Biodiversity:  the applicant’s argument that by building a new ice centre, it will increase the biodiversity is spurious.  Essentially what is promised is that in spite of having put little effort into increasing biodiversity on the site for many years, they will make an effort to do so with a new ice centre.  In fact, there will be a loss of potential biodiversity due to the nearly doubling in size of the footprint and any increase in effort in the remaining green space will not compensate for the area lost.  If they are concerned about increasing the biodiversity of the area, it would be better to build elsewhere, tear down the old centre and put some effort into restoring the site in a way that really increases habitat and biodiversity.
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Open Letter to the East London Guardian

Correction: We aren’t wasting your money on surveys at the Waterworks Meadow!

Rare brown-banded carder bee found on the Waterworks Meadow by ecologist Russell Miller

On 7th July the East London Guardian published an article by Victoria Munro https://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/18567325.thousands-raised-re-wild-waterworks-field-leyton-marshes/?ref=twtrec about our crowdfunder to raise money to pay for surveys of the Waterworks Meadow as part of our campaign to rewild the Meadow and prevent it being used again as a site for events. In her article Ms Munro wrote:

The group alleges it was “denied access to LVRPA’s ecological data”, which the authority contests, and that “much of the data that does exist is outdated or limited in scope”.

A park authority spokesperson said they hoped to work with the group on surveys, as “it would be a waste for them to spend money doing something [the authority] have already done”.’

Both the statements by the LVRPA were untrue. A member of Save Lea Marshes made an Environmental Information Request on 23rd March 2020 asking for all surveys on the Waterworks Meadow and Nature Reserve and had not received a reply to this request by the time this article was written in the second week of July. It was not an allegation but a fact.

In addition, the claim by the LVRPA that ‘it would be a waste of money doing something (the Authority) had already done’ was also untrue. The LVRPA had only done one survey, a botanical survey, on the Waterworks Meadow. Given that this was the case, SLM’s statement that ‘much of the data that does exist is out of date or limited in scope’ was true and also not an allegation.

Plainly a journalist cannot be blamed for false statements by an authority. However, good journalism requires a degree of scepticism when it comes to official pronouncements and a willingness to check stories with those affected. Ms Munro failed to contact us before publishing her story.

A predictable result of us being accused of wasting money was that our crowdfunder would suffer a slowdown in donations, which did indeed happen.

We pointed this out, first to Ms Munro on twitter and then to the editors, Ann Yip and Robert Collins, in an online comment followed up by an email, asking that they print a correction. Ms Munro refused to take responsibility and accused us of harassing her. The editors noted that the LVRPA had acknowledged the error regarding the surveys but failed to take any action to put matters right. We followed up this failure to respond with a suggestion they might like to do a feature on our present projects which often involve collaborations with other reputable organisations to undo the harm. The editors failed to respond.

We think local journalism matters. Of course the East London Guardian is a part of a large media corporation, NewsQuest Media Group https://www.newsquest.co.uk/news-brands so maybe local journalism is a misnomer in this case. However, any journalism which treats authorities as unimpeachable sources, which fails to communicate with people affected by stories and is careless with a ‘scoop’ which is likely to cause damage offers little to the communities it claims to serve.

Hundreds of people took the trouble to write in with objections to the use of the Waterworks Meadow for a music festival. The Licensing Officer said he had never seen the like of it. Ms Munro also managed to misreport details of that story, wrongly attributing a quote from us to a third party and failed to contact us at all for the article. The project to prevent further attempts to use the Meadow for events of this kind also matters to large numbers of local people with 106 donations to date. Failure to correct inaccurate reporting is a slap in the face to those committing themselves to campaigns like these.

We are grateful to those who have continued to donate despite the inaccurate information circulated by the East London Guardian. Fortunately, campaign groups no longer have to rely so much on local newspapers to publicise their activities. You can find accurate information about our campaigns and the organisations we work with, as well as the professional surveyors we have recruited on our website or by following us on Twitter and Facebook 

We hope you will share our crowdfunder Re-wild the Waterworks Meadow! organized by Caroline Day and support our work in organising these surveys and our plans to rewild the Waterworks Meadow as part of our invaluable green lung, the Lea Valley Park.

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Objection of the Week #4

This week’s featured objection to the Lee Valley Ice Centre being situated at Leyton Marsh is focused upon the superior benefits of enhancing rather than reducing green space at this location. It is written by Caroline.

To: dmconsultations@walthamforest.gov.uk

I wish to object to the planning application 194162 to build ‘Two x 30m x 60m Olympic-sized ice pads with 500 seating capacity and additional 300 spectator standing, cafe space, 100 station fitness centre, ice garage and plant room’ on Lea Bridge Road.

Proposed demolition and construction site for the new ice centre on Leyton Marsh

My objection centres on the fact that the proposal constitutes inappropriate development on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) and the applicant has not made out the case for ‘very special circumstances’ that outweighs the harm to MOL.

The LVRPA have not made the argument that there are ‘very special circumstances’ regarding location, transport, physical characteristics or policy that merit the development planned.

The applicant has stated that the Lea Bridge Road site benefits from its ‘strategic appeal & profile/ visual prominence on Lea Bridge Road’. If the Ice Centre were re-located then Leyton Marsh and Walthamstow Marshes would be more visually prominent which would both welcome people onto the marshes, increase connectivity of the marshes east and west of Lea Bridge Road and be more aesthetically pleasing. A re-location of the ice centre to another site such as Eton Manor would provide the opportunity for the footprint of the current LVIC to be re-wilded. This would be a greater strategic asset for the Lee Valley Park, re-linking the marshes together creating a continuity of landscape, to the benefit of people and wildlife. The benefits of viewing green space and trees has been shown to assist health and well-being, the same case has not been made for viewing large building structures. One of the primary features of the Regional Park must be to protect and enhance open parkland and one of the key reasons Metropolitan Open Land has such a designation is the recognised feature of ‘openness’. This development will degrade rather than enhance such openness.

The LVRPA argue that its choice of  Ice Centre location ‘benefits from proximity to existing and planned communities’ however these existing and planned communities can benefit most from opening up the landscape and providing greater accessibility and visibility for the free activity of walking for leisure to more people in the community. Walking in green space is a leisure activity that reaps significant benefits and Leyton Marsh is a popular location for the community to walk for leisure. This is particularly important to residents in the immediate community, such as those adjacent to the site at Essex Wharf and those living in the new high-rise buildings on Lea Bridge Road, who do not have gardens. Research by the charity Mind finds that ‘71 per cent report depression decrease after green walk, 22 per cent report depression increase after urban walk’ https://www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/news/go-green-to-beat-the-blues/ therefore it is important that in areas of high population density, green open space is available for such an activity. The development of a large and prominent structure will urbanise and thus degrade the available green open space for the community and for the purpose of walking for leisure.

During times when we are experiencing increasing rates of mental illness as a society, enhancing the provision, visibility and accessibility of green space available for walking for leisure outweighs the LVRPA’s argument for paid leisure activities; research shows that it is the former which is patently more beneficial for both mental and physical health of a greater number of the population than elite sporting venues for athletes and spectators.

Consideration should be made of the research findings comparing the outcomes of indoor leisure activity in a building with outdoor activity; these findings clearly indicate the benefits of green exercise outweigh those of indoor leisure activity in terms of improving mental health. Mind’s research study (referenced above) details the views of people who regularly partook in green activities run by Mind’s network of local Mind associations: ‘90 per cent said it was the combination of nature and exercise that had the greatest effect on them’ and ‘94 per cent said that green activities had benefited their mental health, lifting depression.’

The ninety percent figure is very revealing, it’s not just the activity of exercise but exercise in a natural environment that is so beneficial to people’s health and well-being. The LVRPA have not proven that the provision of enhanced elite facilities for ice-skating, other pay-to-use leisure activities such as a gym and associated infrastructure such as the 200+ space car park constitute the ‘very special circumstances’ which outweigh the necessity to provide enhanced opportunities for walking in green space for residents in nearby and increasingly high-density residential communities.

Mind’s report ‘Ecotherapy: the green agenda for mental health’ presents the findings of the first ever study looking at how green exercise specifically affects people with mental health problems. A walk in a country park was compared with a walk in an indoor shopping centre. The results are startling:

  • 71 per cent reported decreased levels of depression after the green walk
  • 22 per cent felt their depression increased after walking through an indoor shopping centre and only 45 per cent experienced a decrease in depression
  • 71 per cent said they felt less tense after the green walk
  • 50 per cent said their feelings of tension had increased after the shopping centre walk
  • 90 per cent had increased self-esteem after the country walk
  • 44 per cent said their self-esteem decreased after window shopping in the shopping centre.

 

Whilst the applicant is not seeking permission to construct an indoor shopping centre, it is nonetheless seeking to replace green space on Metropolitan Open Land with indoor leisure activities for customers only. This will provide a lesser benefit to a smaller number of people than if it sought to extend the opportunities for ‘eco-therapy’ to the larger regional population who enjoy the marshes as part of a Regional Park. A forward-looking Authority would both assess and explore the potential for eco-therapy on Leyton and Walthamstow Marshes: Mind is unequivocal about the potential benefits of rolling out eco-therapy in appropriate places, “Hundreds of people have benefited from the green projects run by our local Mind associations but if prescribing ecotherapy was part of mainstream practice it could potentially help the millions of people across the country who are affected by mental distress.”

 

The Heritage and Society Report of 2019 recognises the significance of protecting natural heritage. https://historicengland.org.uk/content/heritage-counts/pub/2019/heritage-and-society-2019/

 

Parks and green spaces are a key component of social infrastructure; ‘the physical places and organisations that shape the way people interact’ (Klinenberg, 2018, p.5). A recent evidence review commissioned by National Lottery Heritage Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund, conducted by Sheffield Hallam University and The University of Sheffield includes a peer review of 385 studies. It highlights the social benefits of parks and green spaces (predominantly in the UK, Europe, the US and Australia) and underlines the potential of parks to deliver ‘multiple health benefits for the local communities and support long term mental and physical health’ (Dobson et al, 2019). Facilitated visits to green spaces improved the self-esteem, mental well-being and social lives of people with disabilities (Jakubec et al., 2016). Improving accessibility to Leyton Marsh from Lea Bridge Road could more positively impact those with disabilities than providing an accessible leisure venue.

 

Crucially, parks and green spaces enable people to connect with nature, which in turn benefits wellbeing. Recent surveys reflect the earlier findings of the Mind reports; a ‘sense of connectedness to nature is linked with greater psychological well-being’ (Cervinka et al., 2011; Howell et al., 2011)

 

Studies show that children and young people appreciate being asked to have their say on park design and use (Derr and Tarantini, 2016; Malone, 2012; Gallerani et al., 2017). There is no evidence that the LVRPA conducted a wide consultation with the community about the role and design of Porter’s Field Meadow (Leyton Marsh); its consultation was skewed towards those who use the present site for paid-for leisure activity, i.e. ice-skating.

 

Multiple reviews suggest that physical health, wellbeing and life satisfaction are enhanced through access to and use of parks and green spaces. Studies on obesity levels among children showed ‘levels are lower when there is more nearby green space to their residence’ (Dadvand et al., 2014). Proximity to green spaces is associated with reduced anxiety and mood disorder (Nutsford, Pearson and Kingham, 2013).

 

The Heritage & Society report of 2019 also finds that the main source of pride for adults is ‘countryside and scenery’ at 53% (more than any other category). This finding reflects the importance of conserving and preserving open landscape and scenery; properly assessing the impact of natural heritage on residents and the wider community in order to best locate leisure venues within the Regional Park.

 

The applicants have over-estimated the role and impact of paid-for indoor leisure activity and underestimated the value of natural heritage in their assessment of the LVIC site and have therefore not proven very special circumstances in terms of location.

 

Leyton and Walthamstow Marshes provide a place where thousands of people find peace, solace and well-being, even helping individuals to overcome addiction. This is referenced in this recent and extremely popular article in The Guardian which goes into detail about the therapeutic effect of Nature, specifically including Walthamstow Marshes SSSI (adjacent to Porter’s Field Meadow/ Leyton Marsh, the proposed development site): https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/feb/25/ecological-grief-i-mourn-the-loss-of-nature-it-saved-me-from-addiction

 

“So I started walking, wandering daily on Walthamstow Marshes in north-east London to watch the kestrels, caterpillars and the shaggy old heron. It made me feel safe and secure. Gradually, I realised that my mind needed these walks and I grew to rely on them. The natural world had become a kind of rehab: it soothed my rawness and patched me back together.” The author Lucy Jones goes on to state, “I hadn’t realised that the essence of nature – the geometry, the scents, the sounds, the colours, the textures, the chemical makeup – could have such a life-changing power but, quite quickly, this became apparent.” Whilst the benefits of being in open green space are by nature difficult to capture, the report findings combine with individual testimony to create a compelling case that ‘very special circumstances’ exist for preserving rather than developing MOL for very large leisure facilities at this location.

Instead of a large-scale building project, the LVRPA should be increasing climate resilience with natural infrastructure such as SINCS, re-wilded areas, flood plains and extended buffers for special protection sites such as Walthamstow Marshes SSSI.

The vital role of green space for walking within Nature demonstrates that there is not a ‘very special circumstance’ for reducing green space for a built structure, quite the opposite, and this is also re-enforced by policy guidance. The site of the proposed ice centre is MOL and it is settled law that MOL has the same protections in law as Green Belt. Section 143 of The National Planning Policy Framework (2019) states that ‘inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances.’ Local authorities are directed, at Section 145 of the NPPF, to regard the construction of new buildings as inappropriate in Green Belt except in a number of exceptional circumstances.

 

The proposed development does not meet the requirements of any one of the exceptions and is, therefore, inappropriate development on Green Belt. In order to persuade the planning authority to grant planning permission, the applicant must, therefore, prove that ‘very special circumstances’ exist. It does not do so and the proposed development is consequently contrary to the NPPF, as well as Policy 7.17 of the London Plan, Policies G2, G3 and G4 of the Draft London Plan, Policy CS5 of the Waltham Forest Local Plan and Policy 84 of the Draft Waltham Forest Local Plan.

 

 

Transport

The applicant states that the ‘desired footprint can be comfortably provided on the existing site, has room for 200 parking spaces (plus potential ability to also use the immediate surrounding area for parking if necessary)’. Firstly, the footprint can only be ‘comfortably provided’ by extending further onto protected land. Secondly, encouraging cars on to the edge of Leyton Marsh has an effect of urbanising this green space further, especially as the applicant is referencing its future ability to extend car-parking on site. It runs counter to current policy focused on increasing sustainable transport and reducing carbon emissions, as well as running counter to the measures aimed at reducing air pollution. For this reason, many developments, even though not being constructed on MOL, are designed to be car-free or at the very least to minimise car-parking spaces, in order to actively encourage sustainable transport modes by visitors.

The choice of the Lea Bridge Road site may offer a large enough desired area for an expandable car park of 200+ spaces on MOL, however it is not best situated as regards cars accessing the site. The Lea Bridge Road is a single lane carriageway which is currently heavily congested at peak times.

Air pollution

Air pollution levels will increase as a result of the new development being designed to attract a large number of visitors using cars. The document 6D2 acknowledges that ‘the scheme exceeds the transport emissions benchmark.’

There are significant limitations to the off-setting proposed to counteract the effect of transport emissions from the proposed development. Some of those suggested are clearly beyond the remit and ability of the LVRPA, including: Support and promotion of car clubs; contributions to low emission vehicle refuelling infrastructure; provision of incentives for the uptake of low emission vehicles; financial support to low emission public transport options; and improvements to cycling and walking infrastructures.

The document advises that the applicants ‘implement a Travel Plan that supports and encourages sustainable staff travel (public transport, cycling, walking, and car-sharing)’. However, providing a very large car park of 200 spaces, with the provision of more if necessary, encourages unsustainable car use by visitors, rather than sustainable transport modes.

LBWF has declared an AQMA for nitrogen dioxide and PM10 that encompasses the whole Borough. The Council has developed an Air Quality Action Plan for 2018 – 2023 (LBWF, 2018). This sets out to “manage the impact of future growth of the borough, support healthier lifestyles for residents, reduce the impact of traffic on air quality and congestion as well as reducing our own impact on air quality.” By increasing traffic use, particularly car use, on the already congested Lea Bridge Road, the application is incompatible with this policy.

Improvement of cycling and walking infrastructure has taken place with the Mini-Holland scheme, with a new pedestrian path and cycleway being installed outside the current LVIC. However, the encouraging of vehicular traffic across these paths is antithetical to the goals of the scheme, which is to provide a safer and healthier route for cyclists and pedestrians.

There are significant limitations to the data presented for PM10 and PM 2.5 concentrations; pollutants that are acknowledged as hazardous to human health and therefore a precautionary approach should apply. Document 6D2 states, ’There are no nearby PM10 or PM2.5 monitors. It has therefore not been possible to verify the model for PM10 or PM2.5.’ Another limitation of the Air Quality assessment is that ‘there is currently no straightforward way to take account of the effects of the 2017 Plan or 2018 Supplement in the modelling undertaken for this assessment; however, consideration has been given to whether there is currently, or is likely to be in the future, a limit value exceedance in the vicinity of the proposed development.’ As has been stated, this scheme ‘exceeds’ such a benchmark for transport.

The assessment of sustainable transport for alternative sites under consideration was also completed before a main bus route serving the current LVIC, the 48, was withdrawn. The withdrawal of the 48 bus route limits more sustainable transport options for both visitors and staff at the Lea Bridge Road site.

The application should be refused on the basis that it does not comply with the relevant policies.

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Objection of the Week #3

This is the third is our series of objections to the LVRPA’s plans for a new ice centre on the Lea Bridge Road. It has been written by Julian.

Satellite image of Eton Manor

Part 1

10/03/2020

dmconsultations@walthamforest.gov.uk

Dear Sir/Madam

I wish to object to this planning application Lea Valley Ice Centre, Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, London, E10 7QL. Application ID: 194162.

  1. I consider the present site is unsuitable for the expanded Ice Centre.
  2. I have to note the cynicism of the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA) in submitting two applications, presented by professional staff paid out of public funds, for the Waterworks music event at the same time as this one, thereby creating difficulties for those members of the community taking time out from their everyday lives to object. Any authority worth its salt should aim to facilitate consultation and participation in decisions of this kind. The LVRPA fails, yet again, to measure up.
  3. The LVRPA owns an alternative site at Eton Manor. It is fully aware of the existence of that site and has attempted to argue that it is less suitable than the site at Leyton Marsh. I do not see how such an argument can be sustained.
  4. Both sites are Metropolitan Open Land (MOL). In principle this means that neither site should be developed unless there are Very Special Circumstances.
  5. The LVRPA has failed to show any Very Special Circumstances for the Leyton Marsh site.
  6. Interestingly the LVRPA is trying to develop the Eton Marsh site, despite it being MOL, as a hotel.
  7. If it is the case that the Eton Manor site can be considered suitable for a hotel, despite it being MOL, then plainly it must be suitable for a sports centre.
  8. Given that the site is next to an existing sports centre, the Hockey and Tennis Centre, also owned by the LVRPA, this should make this site an instant shoe-in if the LVRPA is serious about its claim to be serving the public by providing facilities. In no way does building a hotel fit with that mandate.
  9. I consider the arguments for the suitability of the Eton Manor site to be overwhelming and that the relocation of the Ice Centre to that site will produce important benefits for Leyton Marsh and the surrounding area, benefits which will also be spread to other parts of the boroughs of Waltham Forest and Hackney.
  10. Waltham Forest Council has itself, on occasion, commented on the undesirability of the present Ice Centre. Both Waltham Forest Council’s ‘Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land Review’ and the ‘Waltham Forest Focussed Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land Assessment’ have considered the present Ice Centre to be an inappropriate development and that it would not have been granted permission if brought forward for permission now.
  11. Waltham Forest Council’s ‘Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land Review’ even says, see para. 5.16, ‘it supports such relocation as this would provide an opportunity to rationalise the land uses in MOL3 and enhance the sense of openness, particularly views north-south along the Lea Valley’.
  12. The most important reason for finding Eton Manor a more suitable site for the Ice Centre is the radically different transport opportunities available at that site by comparison with the present location. There is simply no comparison in this respect between the two sites.
  13. Improved transport connections would be a massive benefit to the Ice Centre itself as they mean it can attract a much larger user group from a much wider catchment area.
  14. To understand these greatly improved transport connections available at Eton Manor that site has to be understood in terms of its connection to the Stratford Regional Station and the two bus stations in Stratford Town Centre and at Stratford City.
  15. Stratford is one of the best connected train stations in London and actually in Britain, listed 7th in the UK see link below. Stratford links the Overground, the Central Line, the District and the Hammersmith and City Lines (one stop away at Mile End), the Jubilee Line, the DLR from Canary Wharf and beyond, the mainline up into Hertfordshire and out to Essex and into Liverpool Street https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_busiest_railway_stations_in_Great_Britain. The figures are collected by the Office of Rail and Road. In addition, the International Station also runs out into Kent and through the Tube network Stratford is linked to all London’s mainline stations.
  16. In addition, Stratford is incredibly well connected with buses from all over connecting at the Stratford bus station and Stratford City bus station, see the attached map https://web.archive.org/web/20170116154141/http://content.tfl.gov.uk/bus-route-maps/stratford-a4-0916.pdf. Stratford is also served by National Express coaches.
  17. Stratford Station and the two bus stations are linked to Eton Manor by the 308 bus. Almost anyone wanting to get to Eton Manor can do so easily by getting to Stratford by train or tube and taking the 308. If there was a need for a further transport connection, which there should not be, the LVRPA could run a mini bus service from Stratford to its Eton Manor facilities and to the Velopark just as Here East does.
  18. The 308 runs from Wanstead to Clapton, see 308 bus route, and also connects with the Stratford International train station.
  19. In addition, Eton Manor is also served by the W15 bus route which in turn is only a short walk to connect with the Central Line at Leyton, see the map in this link Leyton High Road / Leyton Station.
  20. Bus Routes 158, 58 and 69 all connect with the W15 where they intersect near Leyton Tube station, connecting areas in Waltham Forest up to Chingford and east out to East Ham and south to Plaistow and other parts of Newham.
  21. If it is situated at Eton Manor the Ice Centre remains a local facility easily accessible to local users. If anything it becomes easier for people in East London to access as Stratford and its wider bus network makes it easier for people to get to Eton Manor than to Leyton Marsh.
  22. The present Ice Centre is served by two minor railway stations, which cannot in any way compare to either Stratford station or Leyton Tube station, and the buses connecting those stations to Lea Bridge Road. The numbers travelling using those stations are minuscule by comparison with those using Stratford station. Leyton Tube station is also an important stop on the Central Line.
  23. In addition, the Lea Bridge line goes to Stratford and the 308 bus goes to Clapton so both of those starting points for the Leyton Marsh site are covered by connections to Stratford and, in the case of the 308, directly to Eton Manor.
  24. These connections mean public transport becomes a much easier and more sensible way to get to the Ice Centre if it is located at Eton Manor thus reducing car use and the associated problems of congestion and pollution.
  25. So not only does Eton Manor favour the use of public transport, which is a benefit in itself, but the LVRPA is likely to get far more users attending at Eton Manor as public transport connections via Stratford open the centre up to a much larger catchment both inside and outside London.
  26. Regarding access by car Eton Manor is of course also much closer to the M/11/12/A12 link meaning that distance traffic will be much less disruptive to the local area as it can move easily in and out of the area without impacting on local roads, also meaning pollution and congestion will be eased.
  27. The plans for the Ice Centre on its present site are simply unsustainable. The current use of the Ice Centre stands at 279,000 a year. Of these only a third are Waltham Forest and Hackney residents. The intention is to double capacity. Given that this will mean a lot more people coming from outside the area it is imperative to provide much better public transport connections.
  28. It is simply impossible to achieve these at the present location given the extremely limited bus and train services available. The result has to be greatly increased car use with much worse congestion and pollution in Lea Bridge Road and neighbouring streets and areas.
  29. Eton Manor, on the other hand, can provide these public transport improvements.
  30. For both Waltham Forest and Hackney, moving the Ice Centre has benefits for traffic on Lea Bridge Road in terms of the reduction in traffic congestion and pollution on that road and removing traffic, and thus congestion and pollution, from other connected Waltham Forest and Hackney streets. The reduced traffic will also improve the flow of public transport in Lea Bridge Road and connected streets.
  31. The relocation of the Ice Centre will also provide more open space for people to enjoy at Leyton Marsh with its associated benefits for the health and well being of people in the area.
  32. The benefits of enjoying nature for people’s physical and mental health are well documented. Walking is the easiest and most popular form of exercise. Opening up this space will help develop and protect the Lea Valley Park in this area of London as the Green Lung it is supposed to be.
  33. Other sports centres in the Olympic Park like the Tennis and Hockey Centre and the Velopark facilities already belong to the LVRPA so having the Ice Centre there will allow for synergies making it possible for the LVRPA to efficiently plan better access for all its centres and create link ups between programmes for the different centres in order to increase usage, all things the LVRPA should be seeking to do now with its existing sports centres in the Olympic Park.
  34. Taking the planning restrictions on development on MOL into account and the immense benefits to the Ice Centre in moving it to Eton Manor in terms of access and the synergies such a move creates there is really no comparison between these two sites. Eton Manor outclasses Leyton Marsh in every respect.
  35. Taking into account the benefits of removing the Ice Centre from Leyton Marsh in terms of the reduction in pollution and congestion in Lea Bridge Road and neighbouring streets, the provision of more open space and the associated benefits to the health and well being to local people, and the protection of the Marshes as north-east London’s green lung Eton Marsh has to be considered by far the more desirable location for this facility.
  36. Planning permission for this application should be refused.

Yours faithfully

Julian Cheyne

Part 2

Dear Sir/Madam

Planning application Lea Valley Ice Centre, Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, London, E10 7QL. Application ID: 194162

I wish to add to my objection regarding the application by the Lea Valley Ice Centre, as in my previous email.

Car park

    1. First, I consider the applicant is being misleading in their description of the car park they intend to create. They refer to 155 spaces for cars. However, their description of the size or capacity of the car park is actually 200 parking spaces with capacity for more, an extra capacity which is not defined but it seems could be considerably greater.
    2. 4.5 of the planning statement refers to “The desired footprint can be comfortably provided on the existing site, has room for 200 parking spaces (plus potential ability to also use the immediate surrounding area for parking if necessary)” https://bit.ly/3ksx81E. This doesn’t provide an actual figure for how many cars could be parked there but it seems it could be considerably more than 200 and far more than 155.

Amendment

Please note the document https://bit.ly/2PGLai1 includes a diagram at 3.11 which shows the car park has 220 spaces. So this is actually the starting point. The area in which the car park can expand is in addition to that area as the space made available for parking in this diagram is set out in the diagram. It is not declared to an ‘immediate surrounding area’. So the applicants have actually produced three numbers for the size of the car park. How can any of this be relied on?

    1. As things stand they say the Ice Centre is operating at 100% capacity. Regarding parking it has a total of 307 spaces. “To the west of the building is a car park formed of hardstanding which provides for 177 spaces. The area immediately to the front of the ice centre is currently used as an overflow car park and provides an additional 130 parking spaces. In total, the ice centre is served by 307 car parking spaces.”
    2. It is unclear whether operating at 100% capacity means the car park is also 100% full. However, the Ice Centre is claiming it will be able to reduce car usage by just under 50%, based on these two figures of a reduction from 307 to 155 spaces.
    3. However, in reality it has a much greater capacity, a capacity which is not actually made plain.
    4. It has to be asked whether they will be able to meet their target reduction to reduce parking to 155 spaces or whether they will be obliged to use the extra capacity.
    5. In fact it has be asked whether they will be able to achieve any reduction at all.

Increase in activities and visitors

    1. Second, it seems the Ice Centre expects an increase in numbers using the facility. I have not found an analysis of expected future usage. It may be there. There are a lot of documents to get through.
    2. However, taking it that the Centre says is already operating at 100% capacity and is therefore apparently bursting at the seams the whole plan is presented on the basis that a larger facility is needed to cope with this level of demand. Therefore it is based on the premise that the Centre needs to be larger to accommodate more users.
    3. The Centre refers to the growth of populations in the Boroughs and areas from which it draws users. In the Planning Statement https://bit.ly/3fEhtsO it states “10.27 To put this ‘need’ further into context, since the current ice centre was consented in 1984, London’s population has increased by 1.5 million (22%) and the boroughs of Waltham Forest and Hackney have seen a population increase of 27%. In this time, the ice centre has accumulated a large interest group and is a well-known establishment for providing ice related activities and opportunities.” Again the point is there is a growing population to cater for and the Ice Centre is a well known facility in the region likely to attract visitors from this growing population.
    4. Paras 6.11 to 6.13 make similar points about rising numbers of visitors to the LVRPA’s facilities and rising populations in relevant Boroughs.
    5. Para 10.5 makes similar points about the need for an “expansion of services and ice activities” all of which implies an increase in the numbers of visitors; “The operational capacity of the existing ice centre is a key driver of the need to replace the current facility, as in order to provide an expansion to the services and ice activities currently provided, additional ice space would be required which can only be delivered by the provision of an additional ice pad.” Another ice pad will not just help to meet existing demand but will allow for an expansion of services meaning it will draw in new users, new visitors.
    6. Para 10.55 of the Planning Statement provides further detail on how the second pad will provide further opportunities to enable more members to join hockey and skating clubs and to expand their activities, such as hockey practice: “Having a second pad will allow the hockey and skating clubs additional hours across the two pads. This will create capacity that will enable those on club waiting lists the opportunity to join. The indicative timetable at Appendix 8 demonstrates how, across the two pads, the number of days able to offer hockey practice, particularly junior hockey, will increase. There is also an enhanced ‘Learn to Skate’ programme and more patch ice time.”
    7. Para 10.57 refers to the opportunities to accommodate new ice sports: “Providing a second ice pad will also allow for opportunities to accommodate other ice sports such as speed skating, sledge hockey and recreational curling. British Ice Skating (BIS) and the English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA) have confirmed that there is significant latent demand for these uses, with potential for a new twin pad to meet a wider strategic need beyond London.”
    8. This section refers to meeting a wider strategic need “beyond London”. Plainly this implies further visitors travelling from greater distances, almost certainly by car. Accommodating new sports suggests a major expansion in usage.
    9. Para 10.58 reinforces the point referring to a “strong potential to grow” youth hockey and the Centre having a “strong hockey development market”. “The EIHA is the governing body responsible for the administration of all ice hockey in England and Wales. It is responsible for senior divisions below Elite League level, British Universities Ice Hockey Association, women’s ice hockey, recreational ice hockey and junior ice hockey. The EIHA have confirmed that the proposed replacement ice centre would have a strong hockey development market. It also suggested that it has strong potential to grow youth hockey system, currently limited by a lack of ice time.”
    10. Para 10.59 goes even further declaring a second pad “would deliver on a national requirement”. “Being able to accommodate additional ice sports would fulfil the Park Authority’s remit by increasing the regional profile, but this cannot be achieved without the addition of a second ice pad. Furthermore, by creating a second fully accessible Olympic twin pad in the UK would deliver on a national requirement.” It seems the Ice Centre envisages its expanded facility attracting users from across the nation.

More visitors, reduced parking – how does this add up?

    1. Third, taking all these statements into account the Ice Centre is expecting an expansion in users, it could be said a considerable expansion given not just the expansion in local populations but taking into account its ambitions to reach out to new sports and that these sports would not just be in its traditional catchment areas but “beyond London” and even “across the nation”.
    2. It has to be asked how the Leyton Marsh location can meet the travel needs of an expanding number of visitors or how the Ice Centre will be able to reduce the number of car parking spaces when it expects more people to visit and with new visitors to be coming from further afield, almost certainly by car.
    3. It seems optimistic, to say the least, for the Ice Centre to accommodate a greater number of visitors on its existing car park, let alone on a smaller car park.
    4. It has to be expected that Centre will have to make use of the real capacity of the car park at over 200 and will almost certainly have to expand onto the extra space referred to to cope with the demand.
    5. The figure of 155 car parking spaces is simply unreliable on the basis of the plans put forward by the applicant.

Travel Plan

  1. Fourth, it has to be asked whether the Ice Centre has any realistic plans to meet the challenge set out above.
  2. 5.2 of the Travel Plan https://bit.ly/2DwBjck makes several proposals of which the most significant are the following two paragraphs:
    1. increase the proportion of trips made to/from the Development by walking, cycling and public transport;
    2. reduce the total proportion of trips made to/from the Development by private car, which would also include a shift from single occupancy car use towards multiple occupancy car use;
  3. So essentially the Ice Centre’s plan is an education programme to encourage users to change their ways of getting to the Ice Centre.
  4. The first point that has to be made is they produce no evidence to show how effective such an education programme is likely to be.
  5. Most education programmes of this kind are run by public authorities or those with the power to influence behaviour in a number of ways, by increasing the availability of public transport, levying fines, increasing prices, running events to introduce people to cycling and such like. The Ice Centre has only one of these at its disposal, increasing prices for parking at its car park. It will produce leaflets and talk to users in the hope of persuading them to change their mode of transport but this is likely to be a pretty hit and miss project. No doubt some will want to make the effort to share their car but whether this can happen will depend on a variety of circumstances about when they travel, how easy it is to arrange, etc. It is hard to see that much reliance can be placed on such a programme to achieve more than limited results.
  6. Public transport. The Ice Centre has no control over the availability of public transport. If it does not meet users needs then no amount of urging its use will help.
  7. Buses. The first thing to note is that the options for public transport have decreased with the closure of the 48 bus route. Buses are used by a considerable number of users, but the loss of one service will reduce the numbers able to travel by this means.
  8. Trains. The second point is to note the findings of the traffic surveys that virtually no-one has been using trains to get to the Ice Centre and predictions from their surveys are that this is not going to change. If trains do not reach the areas from which people are travelling then no amount of urging people to use them is going to help. It seems trains are not a viable option for nearly all users.
  9. Given that public transport options have worsened the Centre will have to persuade more to walk, cycle or car share.
  10. Walking and cycling are only an option for those living relatively closely to the Centre. It is likely the Centre will be able to persuade a few more people to take up cycling as it is an increasingly popular means of getting about. But there are limits on how far people can cycle and a fair number will already be doing this so it is unlikely that there will be a great expansion of numbers.
  11. The Centre emphasises it will be increasing the number of cycle parking spots. While this may encourage some who have been worried about securing their bikes the reality is people are used to securing their bikes to any number of different kinds of railings and other street furniture. It is unclear that this in itself will lead to a great expansion in the number of cyclists.
  12. Walking is even more dependent on closeness. It is likely, simply to save money, that most of those who can get to the Centre by walking are already doing so.
  13. Car use. The Centre is anticipating an increase in the number of users, both in line with the rising populations of the different boroughs and because it plans to expand the number of events. This expansion is expected to include areas outside London and even nationally. It seems likely that most of this expansion will be in areas further away from the Centre as it is well known locally and has probably reached most of those likely to attend in that area. Given that these extra users are likely to be travelling from a greater distance and given that trains do not seem to meet the needs of those travelling to the Centre it can be expected that most, if not all, of these new users will be coming by car.
  14. The Centre could impose severe price rises on parking to discourage car use. There is no indication they intend to do this. Plainly if they did and users did not have other options to get to the Centre then this would simply put people off coming, the exactly opposite of what they are trying to achieve.
  15. One irony is that the LVRPA has another car park within walking distance at the Waterworks which is free so users who were prepared to complete their journey with a short walk could simply park there. This would not reduce car usage and pollution but might hide it in their statistics.
  16. So the only real means of reducing car usage available to the Ice Centre is to encourage car sharing. They provide no evidence that education programmes by a Centre of this kind will produce any meaningful change in behaviour. Even if there are some who will make the effort, and I have to assume there will be some even if because they may be able to save some money by sharing costs, such efforts will depend on a wide range of factors such as times of travel, how easy it is to pick up those getting a lift, etc. There is no real indication that such a programme will make a significant dent in the numbers travelling by car.
  17. This is an unresearched plan with no evidence to show it will or can be effective. In addition it is put forward when the numbers using the Centre are expected to rise considerably.
  18. Given the wholly unsatisfactory nature of this travel plan and the problems it reveals it cannot be expected that the Ice Centre will be able to reduce the number of cars parking at the Ice Centre in the ways suggested.
  19. This brings me back to the car park. The car park as described is misleading. The real car park is set out in the section referred to at the start: “The desired footprint can be comfortably provided on the existing site, has room for 200 parking spaces (plus potential ability to also use the immediate surrounding area for parking if necessary)”. The car park has at least 200 spaces. The “potential ability to use the immediate surrounding area” fails to describe how many more spaces this will provide. However, given that the present car park has 307 spaces on the basis of present numbers and as it seems likely given that more people will be travelling from further afield the chances are even this “extra surrounding area” will be inadequate to meet the demand.
  20. The Ice Centre simply fails to explain how it is going to cope with the numbers it expects to attract with an expanded Centre providing new events and facilities for an expanded catchment area and an expanding population on a confined site.
  21. This objection is supplementary to the points made in my earlier objection which highlighted the vastly greater public transport connections and, indeed, road connections at Eton Manor. One point I forgot to mention in that objection is that Stratford also provides an enormous parking overflow capacity at Westfield, so if there is any shortage of parking at Eton Manor people can park at Westfield and take the 108 bus to the Ice Centre.

Julian Cheyne

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Objection of the Week #2

This is the second in our weekly series of objections to the LVRPA’s plans to build a new Ice Centre on Leyton Marsh. This one is from Peter. His argument focuses on the question of building on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL). Because the building is to be on MOL, and there are very specific rules about building on MOL, it is sufficient to demonstrate that the rules have been breached to prove that the LVRPA’s plans must be rejected.

Objection to Planning Application 194162

Lee Valley Ice Centre, Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, London E10 7QL

8th March 2020

I wish to object to the planning application for a new ice centre on the Lea Bridge Road.

The current ice centre on Leyton Marsh, off Lea Bridge Road.

The applicant is the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA). The plan entails demolishing the existing building and replacing it with a new one, approximately twice the size. The site is Metropolitan Open Land (MOL). In paragraphs 7.3 to 7.5 of the Planning Statement the LVRPA admits that the development would be “inappropriate”, as defined by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF); and explains in paragraph 5.7 of the same document that as a consequence such a development can only be allowed if there are very special circumstances (VSC) that outweigh the harm caused by building on MOL.

Very special circumstances (VSC)

The LVRPA claims that the following considerations constitute VSC. In this section, all paragraph references are to the Planning Statement.

  1. The LVRPA’s “duty”. Paragraph 16.21 states that the LVRPA “has a statutory duty to develop sports and leisure facilities in the Regional Park. Since 95% of the Park is Green Belt or MOL, it is likely that some new facilities will be developed on protected land.” But this is misleading and a non-sequitur. The LVRPA has a “statutory duty” to do many things under the 1966 Act, as spelt out in paragraph 2.5 – the provision of sports and leisure facilities constitutes only one part (and not necessarily the most important part) of its functions. But, more importantly, there is nothing in the 1966 Act that suggests that the need to provide such facilities entitles the LVRPA to override other considerations. As for the statement that “some new facilities will be developed on protected land”, this has no basis at all. The 1966 Act gives no details about the minimum provision of any particular facilities; therefore it must follow that such provision should be subject to all other relevant constraints. There is no basis for arguing that the need to provide a specific facility constitutes a VSC. The fact that the LVRPA currently provides skating facilities to the public does not place any obligation on it to go on doing so. Until 2012, the LVRPA provided golfing facilities at the Waterworks. When it stopped doing so, this was not because of any lack of demand from the public; rather it was because it thought that it could make more money by using the Waterworks site for other purposes.
  2. The need to have an operational ice centre. The present ice centre is nearing the end of its life, and will soon no longer be able to function. The LVRPA argues in paragraph 10.15 that the need to replace it before it expires is a VSC, because it is inconceivable that there should come a time when such a facility should not be available in this part of London. But this dependence is entirely of the LVRPA’s own making: if the LVRPA had not built the current ice centre (in the 1980s), then there would be no particular demand to build a bigger and better one now. Nevertheless, it is very possible that the London Borough of Waltham Forest (LBWF) would wish to have an ice centre somewhere within the borough, but there is no a priori reason why it should be on LVRPA land, or indeed why it should be provided by the LVRPA. When considered from this point of view, it is clear that there is no VSC involved here.
  3. There is no other twin-pad ice centre in London. The LVRPA asserts in paragraph 10.42 that this is a VSC, but does not explain why.
  4. Increased usage. In paragraphs 10.43 to 10.56, the LVRPA explains how a larger ice centre will result in more availability to the public and more availability to sports clubs – which will better enable it to fulfil its “duty” (as described earlier) and so this is also a VSC. But a closer reading of paragraph 10.48 shows that this is just a way of saying that the LVRPA will earn more revenue from a larger facility. Such a commercial argument cannot constitute a VSC.
  5. Community benefits. In Section 11, the LVRPA describes the benefits that would accrue to the community from the new ice centre and claims them as a VSC. Many of these may indeed be genuine benefits, but the suggestion that they constitute a VSC depends crucially upon the premise that there is no other possible location for the new ice centre. It is also worth noting that these are benefits that could accrue only to some subsections of the “community”. No consideration is given to harm that the presence of the ice centre might cause to other subsections of the community.
  6. Health benefits. In Section 12, the LVRPA describes the health benefits that may result from the new ice centre and claims that they also constitute a VSC. The situation here is analogous to the community benefits described above. They may be genuine benefits, but they could only be considered to be a VSC if there is no other possible location for the new ice centre. And again, while the presence of the ice centre may be beneficial to some people (those who patronize it), it will have the opposite effect on other people (those who would enjoy this area of Leyton Marsh if it were undeveloped).

As explained above, the LVRPA’s case is founded upon a number of premises:

  1. That there must be an ice centre. This is not a foregone conclusion. It is up to the LBWF not the LVRPA to decide how important it is that there should be an ice centre in the borough.
  2. That the ice centre must be provided by the LVRPA. This has not been demonstrated. The LVRPA has a duty to provide some sporting and leisure facilities, but there is obviously no duty to provide facilities for every single possible sport and leisure use. Before the 1980s the regional park did not have an ice centre – and there are any number of sports and leisure uses that the park does not cater for now and probably never will.
  3. That the new ice centre must be located at the Lea Bridge Road site. If it could be located elsewhere, then it cannot be argued that its benefits (being general, not site-specific) constitute a VSC for the Lea Bridge Road site. I shall discuss this point more fully in the following section.

Alternative location

The LVRPA has explained that it originally considered four possible sites – the Waterworks (WW), Pickets Lock (PL), Eton Manor (EM) and the existing site (LVIC) – for the new ice centre. It used a scoring matrix to determine which was the best site. The results of this were LVIC 74.6%, WW 72.6%, EM 70.6% and PL 65.1%.; and so this is the reason why the existing site was chosen as the preferred location for the new ice centre. However, such a scoring system can only be as reliable as the values that are input into it, and these values are themselves subjective. Even at the time the original scoring matrix was drawn up in 2016, several of these values were clearly wrong. If these erroneous input scores were adjusted to more appropriate values, LVIC’s overall score would reduce to 73% and EM’s would increase to 76%, thereby making EM the preferred choice.

The LVRPA has now revised the scoring matrix, and submitted this revised version in this planning application. This has been done because certain facts have changed in the three years since the original matrix was drawn up. It includes two new sites: Broxbourne (B) and the Thames Water depot (TW). In this version the results are LVIC 77.66%, TW 75.84%, PL 62.82%, EM 62.78%, WW 60.8% and B 51.76%. However, this version is just as problematic as the previous version, as I shall demonstrate. For brevity, I shall consider only LVIC and EM.

  1. Accessibility from existing catchments. This appears to mean: How easy will it be for people visiting the existing centre to visit the new centre instead? It has a weighting of 12. Why such a high value? Why should it matter particularly to the LVRPA whether people visiting the new centre are exactly the same as those visiting the existing centre? Before the existing centre was built (in 1981), there was no “existing catchment”, so any “need” for skating facilities that now exists is entirely a consequence of the LVRPA’s decision to create the existing centre in the first place. As it happens, both LVIC and EM are similar distances from the same population centres, so they can be expected to attract much the same clientele. In any case, the methodology behind this assessment is objectionable, because it is based upon an estimate of 30 minutes’ drive-time. The LBWF should assess facilities according to the requirements of users of sustainable transport not car drivers.
  2. Adjacencies of other leisure uses. Both sites have been given a score of 4. This is plainly absurd. There are several leisure uses adjacent to EM of a sporting type, which are exactly the sort of uses likely to appeal to patrons of a skating rink; whereas next to LVIC there is only the Riding Centre. Consequently EM should have a higher score. The LVRPA claims that some leisure uses are “complementary” to skating whereas others are not, but this distinction seems to be entirely arbitrary.
  3. Sporting authority stakeholder support. This refers to how supportive other sporting bodies will be to the new ice centre. EM scores much lower than LVIC, because England Hockey is located next-door to EM and would therefore be prevented from undertaking activities that might have an effect outside its precincts, for example excessive car-parking at peak periods. But this is unacceptable. There is contention for space all over London, and organizations must learn to live within existing constraints. One organization should not be able to dictate to another organization where it can locate merely because it is unwilling to submit to the additional discipline that that would entail. This is particularly pertinent in the case of car-parking. Given the declaration of a climate emergency, organizations should be reducing the use of cars, not allowing it to increase. Therefore the weighting for this item should be reduced.
  4. Community stakeholder support. From the narrative accompanying the new matrix, it is apparent that the “community” here consists of those people who responded to the LVRPA’s consultation. The vast majority of these will be users of the existing ice centre; so inevitably the scores will be biased in favour of LVIC.
  5. Access by car. This has a weighting of 15, whereas the criteria for access for cycle and for foot both have a weighting of 5. This cannot be justified. The London Boroughs of both Hackney and Waltham Forest have a strategy of prioritizing walking and cycling over driving. Therefore the weighting for driving must be lower than for walking and cycling. It is disgraceful that the LVRPA should need to have this pointed out.
  6. Access by public transport. The LVRPA gives LVIC a score of 3 and EM a score of 2. The narrative explains that this is because LVIC has a higher PTAL rating. For the original version of the scoring matrix the LVRPA drew up a list of typical destinations together with journey times between each destination and the ice centre. If you calculate these journey times now (in March 2020) using the TFL Journey Planner (https://tfl.gov.uk/), you will find that on average the times from LVIC are 2 minutes higher than those from EM. (These calculations may be found in Appendix B.) For that reason, the score for EM should be at least as high as that for LVIC.
  7. Fit on site. The LVIC has a score of 5, and EM 4. However, the narrative admits that the new building will fit onto both sites. EM is given a lower score because it will provide less scope for the “public realm and landscape opportunities”. But this should be treated as irrelevant. EM is right next to a busy road, not in a location that people are going to visit except to go to the ice centre. By not building the ice centre at LVIC there will be plenty of scope for the LVRPA to spend money on the “public realm and landscape opportunities” at the vacated LVIC site. Therefore EM should have the same score as LVIC.
  8. Ice centre and on-site parking. This has a weighting of 15; LVIC has a score of 5, and Eton Manor 1. Firstly, the weighting is far too high: the LBWF should be doing everything possible to reduce reliance on cars, so it is very wrong to allow policies to be driven by the needs of car-drivers. Secondly, there are plenty of car-parking spaces in the vicinity of EM. It is only because of a willingness to acquiesce to the hegemonic demands of England Hockey next-door that there is felt to be a shortage of spaces. In any case, one wonders whether the LVRPA genuinely considers that there is a shortage of parking at EM, in light of the fact that it is proposing to build a hotel on the site. Clearly the score for EM should be increased.
  9. Grounds/landscape constraints. LVIC has a score of 4, and EM 2. The narrative explains that EM’s low score is because it “is known to have poor ground conditions, that will likely result in significant piling of the site”. However, this should be taken with a pinch of salt. The LVRPA is currently proposing to build a hotel at EM. Such a building, consisting of several storeys, would exert far greater pressure on the ground than the proposed ice centre, with only two storeys and containing a lot of empty space. In any case, no mention is made of the facts that: firstly, EM is a fairly barren site close to a motorway, whereas LVIC is close to an SSSI; and secondly, if the ice centre is built at LVIC this will entail felling a number of mature trees, whereas there are no mature trees at EM. Therefore the score for EM should be at least as high as that for LVIC.
  10. Cost and ability to develop the scheme. LVIC has a score of 3, and EM 2. The narrative explains that EM has a lower score because the above-mentioned need for piling will increase the building cost. But it does not mention the additional cost that will incurred at LVIC by the complications of staging the building work, in other words scheduling it in such a way that skating facilities remains available to the public for as long as possible while the building is going on. This additional cost would not apply to EM.
  11. Impact on business plan. The LVIC has a score of 5, and EM 3. LVIC has a higher score because it is reckoned that a gym at LVIC would be more profitable than one at EM. This is because, according to the narrative, there are more gyms already in the vicinity of EM. However, the copy of Google Earth at Appendix C shows that the numbers of gyms near the two sites are exactly equal (3 within a radius of half the distance between the two sites, and 9 within a radius of the distance between the two sites). So the two sites should have the same score. (Incidentally, it is obvious that the LVRPA does not sincerely believe that the proximity of gyms is a relevant consideration, since it is proposing that the hotel at EM should itself include a gym. See paper RP/38/20 paragraph 15 in https://www.saveleamarshes.org.uk/DocumentSearch/display.php?Document=338)
  12. Continuity of service. LVIC has a score of 1, and EM 4. The LVIC’s low score is a reflection of the fact that there will be a period between closing down the old ice centre and the first phase of the opening of the new ice centre during which there will be no skating possible. However, there is no reason why EM’s score cannot be 5, since in its case the first phase of the opening of the new ice centre can take place before the old ice centre is closed down. The narrative explains that the ice pad at the old centre will be transferred to the new centre in the second phase, but there is no reason why that should cause an interruption in service at the new centre.
  13. Accordance with government guidance. Both sites are accorded a score of 4. However, the narrative includes the proviso “it has been assumed that Very Special Circumstances (VSC) can be demonstrated”. This is, of course, precisely what is disputed. Since it cannot be assumed that VSC can be demonstrated, the scores for both sites should be reduced. In LBWF’s Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land Review (https://walthamforest.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Waltham%20Forest%20Green%20Belt%20and%20Metropolitan%20Open%20Land%20Study_2015%20Low%20Res%20%281.1%29%281.0%29%20%281%29.pdf) and Green Belt and MOL Assessment Sheets (https://walthamforest.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Green%20Belt%20and%20MOL%20Assessment%20Sheets.pdf), the value of both LVIC (referred to as “MOL3”) and EM (referred to as “MOL6”) as MOL are assessed. LVIC is deemed to merit its designation fully because it satisfies all 4 criteria, but EM is deemed less worthy of the designation because it satisfies only 3 of the 4 criteria. For that reason the score for LVIC should be reduced further than that for EM.
  14. Accordance with local plan policies. LVIC has a score of 3, EM a score of 1. EM has a lower score because it “is allocated for another use, as a designated playing field, and is identified for five a side football in the LLDC Local Plan”. But again, one wonders how relevant this is, since it does not seem to present an obstacle to the afore-mentioned plans to build a hotel on the site, nor to the afore-mentioned objections from England Hockey.
  15. Accordance with Green Belt MOL policy. LVIC has a score of 2 and EM a score of 1. The narrative explains that LVIC “is largely previously developed land, and the development would have less than significant impact on openness compared to the current existing site [presumably existing building is meant]”, and that EM “would have significant impact on current openness as there are no existing structures on the site”. This is plainly absurd. Firstly the new building is twice the size of the old one, so it will certainly have a significant (detrimental) impact on openness. Secondly, if the new building were located at EM, then the site at LVIC could be cleared, thereby resulting in a significant improvement in openness. So the question boils down to whether openness at EM is more or less valuable than at LVIC. In view of the remarks about MOL above, it follows that it is more valuable at LVIC. Therefore the scores should be swapped round.
  16. Regeneration benefits. LVIC has a score of 5 and EM a score of 4. This is because LVIC is within 3 areas designated in the London Plan, whereas EM is in only 1 such area. However, the narrative does not explain why that entitles LVIC to a higher score than EM. The one thing that is certain is that the area around LVIC needs less development, not more.
  17. Planning potential. LVIC has a score of 4 and EM a score of 2. This is simply a reflection of the fact that the LVRPA reckons that LVIC has a greater likelihood of being approved than EM. That is of course an entirely circular argument: you should grant planning permission for the new ice centre at LVIC rather than at EM because we think you are more likely to grant planning permission for it at LVIC than at EM!

At Appendix A there is a copy of the Scoring Matrix. The LVRPA’s scores and weightings are on the left. Where a value has increased from the original (2016) matrix it is coloured red; where it has decreased it is coloured green. (The original matrix is not shown, to avoid confusion.) On the right the scores and weightings are corrected to resolve the issues described above. Where a value has increased from the LVRPA’s value it is coloured red; where it has decreased it is coloured green. As can be seen, the overall score for LVIC reduces from 971 (78%) to 912 (73%), and the overall score for EM increases from 785 (63%) to 964 (77%), as a result of these modifications.

Conclusion

The new ice centre cannot be built on the site of the existing ice centre unless Very Special Circumstances (VSC) can be demonstrated. Most of the points that the LVRPA present as VSC are not valid. It might be possible to argue that some of the benefits (community and health) are VSC. However, these benefits are general, not specific to any one location. Therefore, if there are alternative possible locations for the new ice centre, these benefits cannot be counted as VSC either. I have demonstrated, using the LVRPA’s own methodology, that at least one other site (Eton Manor) is at least as acceptable as the existing site. Therefore there are no VSC for the existing site. Therefore it must be rejected.

Peter Mudge, on behalf of Save Lea Marshes

 

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Objection of the Week!

As the LVRPA have been lobbying the local council and encouraging local people to support their application, every week for the next few weeks we will be sharing an objection to the new Lee Valley Ice Centre being sited at Leyton Marsh.

Each of these objections have been made on different grounds. You can still submit a relevant objection to the planning department at Waltham Forest Council.

First up is Celia who focuses on the industrial nature of a twin pad ice centre on Leyton Marsh – Metropolitan Open Land and some of the reasons it would be better situated at Eton Manor:

Development Management &

Building Control

London Borough of Waltham Forest

The Magistrates, Town Hall Complex

1 Farnan Avenue

London E17 4NX

Re. Application No. 194162FUL Lee Valley Ice Centre

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing to comment on the above proposal.  Having fully read the document prepared by WSP/Idigo on behalf of the Lee Valley Ice Centre, and indeed been involved at various stages of the ‘consultation’ process, I am writing to formally object to the building of the ice centre on the MOL site of Leyton Marsh.

There are many reasons why the building should not go ahead on this site but for the purposes of this objection letter I am going to reluctantly confine myself to just two.

  • There are insufficient good reasons to have chosen this site rather than the site of Eton Manor and a number of bad reasons, not least the building on MOL on less than ‘very special circumstances’.
  • My first point is to address both the practicality and the environmental damage that continuing to operate the old rink whilst developing a new one on the same site instead of building a new one on Eton Manor, whilst being able to keep the old one not only operational for a longer period but also to minimise the disruption to the creatures that inhabit the site and the people who currently use it. Building work is always more disruptive to land than anticipated because of footfall and machinery over grass and supplies left around.  In this case there would be even more disruption as mentioned under paragraph 14.57 of the report as this also includes the provision of temporary buildings.
  • Eton Manor would also be preferable during the time of construction, as the Olympic site is still currently undergoing development and the road infrastructure for commercial vehicles would be less impactful than on the Lea Bridge Road and surrounding districts (as witnessed during the building of the temporary Olympic Basketball Training Facility).
  • The ‘robust’ examination of other available sites in Appendix 1, does not provide sufficient argument to warrant going ahead with the Leyton Marsh site. If Eton Manor isn’t suitable, the arguments against Pickets Lock being effectively ‘too far to walk’ (20 to 30 minutes) could also be questioned (a) from the point of view of the levels of fitness the LVRPA aims to promote and (b)what of the other facilities currently based there including a cinema?
  • I would conclude that the fundamental reason for choosing Leyton Marsh over the other sites is because it is seen in terms of the potential for expansion. If planning permission is granted under ‘special circumstances’, who can say, that future expansion would not be justified?  Just as the current argument is made that a ‘building is there already’, even though, this building arrived before the current MOL status.

 

  • The building is inappropriate for a green space site, despite the efforts to ‘dress’ it as a more environmentally friendly building.
  • Having researched other ice centres (most, like the LVRPA one proposed are in fact ‘Leisure Centres’). I conclude that the proposed ‘twin pad’ most closely resembles Ice Sheffield (see photo 1 and compare the design for the Lee Valley Twin Pad, photo 2).  This is an industrial building based on an Industrial Estate with a mixed occupation of industrial business and leisure buildings – not on MOL.  If you take away the external enhancements of the Lee Valley Scheme and concentrate on the sheer size and scale of the building, the similarity is evident.
  • In London (as mentioned under pages 37-40 of the Planning Statement), the examples of Streatham and Romford are included. Both of these ice/leisure centres are positioned in town centre urban environments (see photos of Streatham an Olympic sized rink nos. 3-5).  Again, the sheer size and scale of the building can be imagined on Leyton Marsh and blocking the openness of the area, which is heavily used as a place for walking and escape by local people and visitors to the area – many more than would use the ice centre.
  • Romford – which used to have very similar ice rink before the new Sapphire Centre was built – a new facility is also located in the town centre (see photo 6), near to transport links.
  • As paragraph 1.53 of Appendix 1 states: “As a leisure facility, the proposed ice centre falls within the definition of a ‘main town centre use’ as defined by the NPPF.”
  • There would seem to be a difference of opinion on what the LVRPA considers to be near town centre and what local people consider to be open space. The Regional Park Authority lends more weight to its own internal needs e.g. not to conflict with the Hockey Centre at Eton Manor, than to the value of the MOL at Leyton Marsh to taxpayers and local residents.
  • While not strictly a ‘planning issue’ the very fact that the LVRPA’s unique organisational structure is a contributing factor in making its decision making difficult. It must, on the one hand, balance its arguments for justification across all the cash-strapped, London boroughs and increasingly need to make a profit from developments. This, set against the other requirements of its founding principles as regards the park, as set out in para. 2.5 (1) of the Planning Statement.  The originators of the Lee Valley Act did not for-see the dilemmas we currently have in terms of lack of land; climate change and the effect on the environment as well as austerity cuts to local authorities.  The overriding issue now must be climate emergency and the need to make sure our flora and fauna can survive in our green spaces. Such spaces are even more vital in conjunction with increased housing but smaller dwellings in the area, particularly as we now know that access to green space aids our health and mental health.

 

In conclusion, the justification of putting an industrial building on MOL adjacent to an SSSI is not proven, given as the report states there are other rinks “20 or 30” minutes by car away and a new Olympic ice centre, currently being built in Cambridge.  They may not all be twin- pads but certainly most of the London ones offer similar sporting activities including Ice Hockey (e.g. the Sobell Centre).  Many of the ice centres are also run by GLL, offering similar facilities (not, for some reason mentioned in the Planning Statement).  Therefore the ‘uniqueness’ of the Lee Valley Ice proposals have been overplayed and should be weighed against stark environmental facts (e.g. 95 per cent of meadow land lost since WWII), not ‘greenwash’.  If Leyton Marsh could be improved – why hasn’t the body responsible for it done enough before deciding to take away a large area of the land for development and so-called ‘enhancement’?

 

 

 

 

 

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Celia Coram

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